Trip to Colorado KPUB -witten by Diane
Jesse and I got invited to fly out to Colorado with a guy who bought a Piper Lance. Jesse had been instructing him in this airplane for awhile. Well, he (James) and his wife (Kathy) kindly invited us to join them for a trip to Colorado!
Jesse and I took off the day from work on Friday, and we left Poplar Bluff (KPOF) around noon. It was about a 4 1/2 hour flight with a stop about 30 miles from Wichita, Kansas to refuel. I have to tell you that the airport we landed at for refueling was a bit of a rinky airport, but it had sort of an old timey feel. Just in front of our plane was a Cessna 140, the predecessor to the Cessna 150. It was this tiny, 2 seat, silver tail dragger airplane, and the instruments (yes, I looked inside the window because I couldn't resist. It looked as though they were the original stuff from the 1940's. Then there were some hangars that were open and doorless, and in one of them was a bright yellow biplane.
Once we got fuel, we took off and continued our trek out to Pueblo, Colorado (KPU. You know, they say that driving through Kansas is brutal because there isn't crap out there. Flying ain't much better - there really isn't crap out there. So for most of the rest of the flight, Kathy and I slept off and on while Jesse and James flew the plane because there wasn't much else to do.
I have to tell you, though, once we got near KPUB, it was awesome. The Rockies finally jutted up from the flat nothingness of Kansas (and part of Colorado), and the terrain below turned into rock. I took pics from the airplane, er, tried because we were in the pattern and kept turning. Once we landed, we all grabbed our stuff, had the plane tied down, and went to get our rental car. We drove from Pueblo to Canon City and stopped at a Comfort Inn to check in. Then we went out to eat since we were pretty famished from the flight.
On Saturday, we all got up and checked out from the motel, and we all decided to just do our separate things for the day. So Jesse and I got our own rental car and looked over the map. Our first conquest: the Royal Gorge. Man, it is a HUGE gorge. The world's highest suspension bridge is the Royal Gorge Bridge, at over 1,000 feet. We didn't go onto the bridge because they made you pay to go onto it, but we took pics from an observation spot over by the visitor center. The Arkansas River flows at the bottom of the Royal Gorge, and from over a thousand feet up, it looks like a little tiny stream.
Our next conquest was finding Cripple Creek, the place where we were going to stay Saturday night. We took a whole lot of byways out there, and it was beautiful driving, though the roads were sinuous. We get to Cripple Creek, and I have to say that it is one of the most unique towns I have ever been to. This town has remained, for the most part, unchanged by time since it was established in the late 1890's. Cripple Creek, along with many other small mountain settlements, was established as a gold mining town, and it actually still is since the hills and mountains surrounding it are filled with millions of dollars worth of gold ore. Even most of the houses of the town are the original homesteads. Cripple Creek is also a gambling town, which I suspect helps its economy aside from the mining. Our hotel, the Double Eagle, was also a casino.
Once we found Cripple Creek and our hotel, we decided to try horseback riding at Garden of the Gods. On our way to Manitou Spring, I called to reserve the horses, but they wanted us to be there 45 mins. early, so we said we could make it, but as Murphy's Law would have it, we got lost, and when we found the stables, they had already left. So no horseback riding for us. Then we decided to go up to Pike's Peak, but when we got there, they closed the road at 3 (because it snows at random up there later in the day), and it was about 3:10! D= So we missed both activities by just a few minutes.
We went back to Garden of the Gods, and took a really long hike up to these neat rock formations. By the time we got to the central garden, Jesse and I were out of breath and dying of thirst. I found a water fountain, and was rejoicing - until I pushed the button and nothing came out! Then I voiced my anguish over this, and a guy behind us was cracking up at me. After we looked over the rocks, we decided to head back down the road to our vehicle so we could go back to Cripple Creek. Unfortunately, the sun was beginning to set, and when the sun disappears behind the mountain, it gets COLD. We also left our car about 3 miles down the long and winding road. The guy who cracked up at us at the fountain was nice enough to give me and Jesse a lift to our vehicle.
We found our way back to Cripple Creek, and it was well after sunset by the time we got there. We met back up with James and Kathy and had dinner at the restaurant in the casino/hotel. Jesse and I worked up such an appetite that we pretty well oinked out on our meals. James and Kathy pretty well did most of the stuff that we did, and we kept missing one another! So after dinner, they went back to their room, and Jesse and I were pretty content to just explore the town a little before we returned to our room for the night. We slept very well!
We got up this morning, packed our stuff, had breakfast, and made the return trip back to Poplar Bluff. It was another long, 4 hour flight, and we were tired when we got home, but we all had a great time, and I hope we get to do this again. Maybe next time we'll actually conquer Pike's Peak. -Diane
Flight to KPNS (Part 2) and sunset between cloud layers
I had to fly back to Pensacola to pick up my passengers. The weather was far less than perfect this trip and a 50 knot headwind on the way down turned a 2 hour 30 minute flight into about a 4 hour flight. I was in the clouds most of the time and it was bumpy, however on the way back I was between layers for a while and got this awesome picture of the sun setting above the clouds. -Jesse
Flight to KPNS (Part 1) witten by Diane
Oh. My. GOD. I had the very best Saturday EVER! Jesse and I flew down to Pensacola, Florida (KPNS) again to drop off a couple of passengers, and we actually got to do stuff! We left Missouri at 12 pm and arrived around 3 pm at Pensacola Aviation. We didn't get to shoot an approach that would take us out over the water because it was inactive due to construction, but I still got a shot of the coast, though the propeller is somewhat in the way.
So we land at Pensacola Aviation, and after our passengers left, Jesse and I got a courtesy car for about 2 hours so we could go eat at that awesome ass 50's diner. We had uber good food (I didn't fly 400 miles NOT to have one of their kick ass chocolate malts), and then we went down to this little park that had a wooden walkway that took you down into some woods and along the coast, though not onto the beach. Well, by the time we get done eating and walking on the walkway, it was time to return the car to the airport.
On our way back, Jesse got the idea that we should see how much a rental car would be for a couple of hours so we could go to Pensacola Beach! SQUEE! So we got a rental car for another 2 hours, and we went down to Pensacola Beach, and it was soooo pretty. Now, the coast of Florida is littered with little islands, and you drive over these bridges that are literally MILES across. One of the bridges we drove over was at least 3 miles. Well, I had no idea that Jesse was going to take me to the beach, and I was kicking myself because I had asked him if I should pack a beach bag, but from the way he talked, it seemed we wouldn't have the time, so I didn't bother. Yeah...learned my lesson there!
Well, Pensacola Beach is actually one big, long island with shops, places to eat, and condominiums all over the place. In fact, we almost got to stay in a condo over the weekend because the gentleman that we flew down there has a friend who owns a condo right on the beach - I got to see the building because we drove right past it, and Jesse has been inside it before. He says it's really nice. The only reason why we didn't stay is because the weather was supposed to be bad the next day and on Monday, so we had to leave that night.
So, anyway, we drove over another bridge and came onto the main strip of Pensacola Beach, and one of the first things I noticed was that the water tower is painted like a beach ball! LOL! There was also a place where you could get crabs to eat, and lots of seafood places. We saw two stores right on the beach, both of them selling beach wear (at outrageous prices, I might add)! People even surf down there, and you can buy surf boards. There is also this really long pier with a small hot dog place on it, and I have a pic, which I will post here in a minute.
Once we got to the beach and parked the car, Jesse and I were uber excited. We made our way down to the water after deliberating for about 20 minutes as to whether we should just buy swimwear, and just rolled up our pants, took off our shoes, and walked along the coast. Omg, the sand is WHITE, and the water is a pretty teal blue, and warm. There were so many seashells that I had a hard time rounding some up. The waves constantly wash in shells, and it's like a lottery - you never know what you're going to pick up.
Well, Jesse couldn't resist the water any longer, and he began removing his phone, belt, and other items, and I was like, "What are you doing?!"
He goes, "I'm going to go in!"
I go, "No you're not!"
"Yeah I am!"
"Um, we still have to go back to the airport! You can't go back sopping wet."
"Eh, it's all good."
At first, I didn't think he was serious - until he removed his shirt and just dove in, khakis and all. I nearly DIED. Now, my husband is Mr. Professional when he goes on trips like this. He would normally NEVER do anything of this sort, but he sure surprised me because this was totally out of character. But I stayed up on the beach, mainly because there had to be someone to watch our things, but mostly because I can't just randomly start shedding clothes and jump in as well. If I could, believe me, I would have. LOL I was, for the most part, content to collect my shellsbecause that's what I wanted to do to begin with. Jesse found a really pretty conch shell that was WHOLE out in the water, and he found a nearly whole sand dollar and brought them to me. =3
The sun was beginning to set, and I had a PILE of shells I had collected. Jesse came back in from his little frolic in the Gulf of Mexico, and he mentioned he has sand in his pants. I was like, "Well, what did you expect?" He put his shirt back on and put the shells in it, but when we got back to the vehicle, we were faced with a slight problem: where were we going to put the shells until we made the 3 hour flight home? So you know what I did? I put the shells in my purse! Holy moly it was heavy. LOL Now my purse is all sandy.
Well, we got back to the airport around 7:30 or so, and we gave the car back to the receptionist. We had it for more than 2 hours, but she didn't charge us for the extra time, which was totally awesome of her. The car rental was around 20 bucks and our dinner at the diner was about the same, so we spent a total of $40 and had a blast!
We took off from Pensacola (KPNS), and once we were out of their airspace, Jesse and I switched seats, and I got to fly the airplane back to KPOF. I even got to talk to Air Traffic Control (ATC)! When you fly, you get handed off to different frequencies to ensure you don't go out of coverage range. Once you change your frequency, check in, and receive your altimeter (barometric pressure) reading, they pretty well leave you alone, though sometimes if it's quiet for a long time, you might have to radio in for a radio check to be sure they haven't forgotten about you. LOL Yeah...I got to do all of that!
Once we got close enough to KPOF, we canceled our IFR flight plan, and I hand flew the airplane for the last 30 minutes. Since we were VFR, we could do what we wanted, so I played around with the controls, and Jesse had me start the descent. I have to tell you that a Piper Lance isn't anything like flying a Cessna 172. It isn't as responsive on the controls, and you really have to wrestle with it. My seat crank didn't work, so I couldn't see very well over the dash, but that was fine - I still managed to fly the thing. A Lance also has a constant speed prop that you have to adjust as well as retractable gear, and a fuel pump. You have to change the fuel flow between tanks every 30 minutes where in a 172, it's a gravity fed fuel system, so you don't have to worry about a fuel pump or changing tanks. A Lance is also FAST! Like way faster than a Cessna. Omg, when I was taking it into the traffic pattern, I was amazed at how much your pre-landing checklist piles up on you due to the speed of the airplane and unfamiliarity on my part. Jesse helped me a bunch with setting the plane up for the landing, but I actually landed the thing (even put the gear down)- and I did a good job! Jesse said he was surprised that I rounded out for the flare when I did because I timed it just right, and that's almost impossible to do at night! Even well seasoned pilots screw it up once in awhile. He wasn't kidding when he said that airplane is nose heavy - I really had to pull on the yoke hard to get it to flare. I had a hard time adjusting to taxiing, and I did the stupidest thing: I kept trying to steer the airplane with the yoke when I KNOW you do it with your feet! I mean, come on, HOW many times have I done this?! God, I felt like such a retard when Jesse's like, "Um, quit trying to taxi it with the yoke." Duh, Diane. Can you say, "Brain fart"? So yeah, that was exciting, too. I even took it back to the hangar - and then we realized we forgot the hangar key at the house and I had to drive back in the car to get it b/c we couldn't turn the Lance around (airplanes don't back up, guys). Luckily, we literally live two minutes away from the airport, so the most he had to wait was 5 minutes.
We finally walked in the front door around 11 pm, but that wasn't too bad - we had been gone since noon, and it was well worth blowing our Saturday. -Diane