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Yuma, Temecula, San Luis Obispo, Oakland

Flying the Edge of America

Thursday, September 18, 2008: Yuma, Arizona

How anything can grow in this desert is a mystery.

Before heading on to Yuma in Arizona this morning we had to make a quick stop at Douglas Bisbee airport to get fuel as there was none at Tombstone. This was a quick 15 minute flight. It turns out that Bisbee airport was an air force base during WWII and a very busy pilot training center.

Magnificent terrain.

We did not find much there now, but it did have fuel which we appreciated. The weather today was "extreme clear" as it is referred to in flying circles; which means there was not a cloud in the sky, well not many. We left early morning which gave us relatively cool air to fly in. This was helpful as hot air gets bumpy when you are close to the ground like at takeoff. For the rest of the flight we flew at 8,500 feet this kept us at zero degrees outside the airplane and in smooth air.

It was great to fly over Tucson, Arizona as I worked there for 18 months when I first arrived in the USA. We did not feel the true temperatures on the ground until we descended into Yuma. Just a drop of 2,000 feet made us aware of how hot it was in the desert. Then when we landed at Yuma airport the full fury of the heat was released and it stifled us. today's temperature at Yuma airport was 98 degrees; but it was a dry heat. Since Bar Harbor in Maine we have experienced very humid conditions. So I guess the dry heat was an improvement but it was still too hot for me.

We tried to make the best of the conditions and visited the Yuma Prison Museum. But the heat was unbearable for us so we found our hotel and camped out in front of the air-conditioning for the rest of the day. Swimming in the pool was also very good.

Yuma Flight Video

Friday, September 19, 2008: Temecula, California

Sunrise over Yuma.

We left Yuma for Temecula, California very early this morning to avoid the predicted 100 degree plus temperatures in the afternoon. We left at 8:00am in the relative cool of 85 degrees. The flight was west along the Mexico border and it was amazing. This part of Arizona and California are barren and very harsh deserts.

Is it the Sahara, no it is the California desert.

Over on the Mexico side of the border there was a lot more farming and irrigation than on the US side. We are not sure why. But eventually the terrain turned both sides into a wasteland. We came to the California high desert. This is the high ground which makes up the Sierra Nevada Mountains eventually. It is stupendous countryside from the air but extremely unforgiving if you where down in it I imagine. It was very hard to tell which side was the US and which was Mexico. Then the high ground dropped away to the lowlands at the west coast revealing San Diego to us.

We passed over Imperial Beach, a military airport, which marked the most southwesterly point on our journey and the fourth corner of our circumnavigation of the contiguous United States of America. As we flew over San Diego the scene went from stark wastelands to stark civilization; to me each presented its own form of harshness and remoteness. But it sure was good to be back in California our home state.

Amazing vista from our flight through the desert.

Eventually we landed at Temecula airport. After putting 51-Juliet away for the night and picking up our rental car we made a beeline to the nearest winery. The wines in this part of California are very fine indeed and the Viognier particularly.

We ate lunch at another winery and it was then we knew we had returned home to the land of milk and honey. The food was outstanding and even more wine was consumed with it. By now Julia and I are quite sick of eating steak and fries so the cuisine at this restaurant was a welcome respite. I guess I have been spoiled by California food and wine.

Temecula Flight Video
Temecula Video

Saturday, September 20, 2008: San Luis Obispo, California

The very busy Temecula airport.

We had diner with my relatives-in-law last night, Anita and Curtis, Bruno, Gerri and Tibor. It was so good to see then all again. Plus they all got to meet Julia. It is a strange phenomenon when my friends meet Julia as most of them feel they know her already because of the web-videos we have been making. Thanks all for spending some time with us both.

It is sure good to be back in California.

I would have to say that Temecula airport in Southern California has to be one of the busiest airports I have ever been too; this morning when we departed there were at least six other airplanes in front of us waiting to takeoff. Eventually we did get into the air and flew our way through the dreaded LA airspace. Having been all around the USA now I can assure you that the airspace over LA is the most difficult to negotiate and the busiest airspace I have experienced.

The golden sun setting over the golden state.

Still there wasn"t a cloud in the sky, the air temperature was in the low seventies, and the air was smooth; this all made for a very good flight. After almost hitting the side of a mountain, due to some very faulty air traffic control, we eventually landed at San Luis Obispo airport on the central California coast. It was then a quick trip to Pismo Beach where we ate a wonderful lunch and took in the sea air. Julia and I are both ecstatic about being so close to home now.

In the evening we walked the silky sands on Pismo Beach and watched a pesky pelican on Pismo Pier soliciting food form the fishermen. As the golden sun set in the west sinking slowly into the quicksilver blue Pacific we day-dreamed of America and our three month immersion into just a few of parts it . I now realize it is hard to understand America and I think perhaps no one will ever really know it completely.

San Luis Obispo Flight
Pismo Beach Video

Sunday, September 21, 2008: Oakland, California

Rugged Northern California coast.

It almost goes without saying that we left San Luis Obispo in clear blue skies this morning headed for our final destination Oakland on this amazing tour around America.

I have made this flight many times in the past but never has it had so much meaning and impact on me. We passed over Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and finally San Francisco.

Oakland airport with San Francisco in the background. Home.

It almost goes without saying that San Francisco in the morning, as we arrived, was buried under a think white marine layer of cloud. But it sure was a great feeling to be home again. As I talked to the NorCal controllers I heard a familiar call sign over the radio, it was Carol a fellow Commander owner heading out to Colombia, California on one of her regular weekend jaunts. I slipped in a hello to her between radio calls and got an amazing greeting from her "your home!" At this point I knew we had done it. We had flown over 10,000 miles all the way around the USA and had made it back home intact.

What an amazing trip it has been; the sights, the terrain, the countryside, the people, our friends, and the ever present weather. All of it has eaten into my soul and penetrated my heart. Julia and I both feel as if we could keep on going around and around, but at the same time we are both glad to be home. We love America.

Oakland Flight Video

Trip stats

Obama: 23

McCain: 6

Undecided: 8

Miles Hiked: 176

Miles Flown: 10,034

Flights Flown 44

Hours Flown 73.83

States Visited: 28

Towns Visited: 53


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