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Santa Catalina Island

Flying California

Friday, October 23, 2009

Julia, her best friend Maeve, and Maeve's husband Eamonn, and I took off into clear skies; our destination Santa Catalina Island. The island is located about 22 miles (35 km) south-southwest of Los Angeles, California. We left Oakland Airport with a three hour flight in front of us so to break it up we landed at San Luis Obispo. After a nice lunch we all piled back into the airplane (who I now refer to as Matilda) and continued our flight south.

As we crossed the Santa Monica Bay, making sure to stay well below the Los Angeles airspace above us, Santa Catalina Island began to peek out at us from a misty veil. The day was still very clear, but a bit of stubborn morning fog clung close to the island. The airport at Santa Catalina Island is perched on the top of a peak. There are vertical drops at both ends of the runway. This made for an interesting feeling in the pit of our stomachs as we glided down the final approach to the tarmac; nothing below us for 1,000 feet until we were right over the runway.

Avalon in the only town on Santa Catalina Island and it is a bumpy one hour bus drive away from the airport. It was easy to see, as we made our way in the bus, that the island was very dry. Little rain this summer had turned the landscape into a cinderblock. The main attraction on our journey was spotting a group of bison. Since 1924 the island has been home to 150 American bison. The story goes that after filming a western the film makers left the bison there.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The little town of Avalon is a touristy beach town. Its most impressive building is the grand art deco Catalina Casino and movie theater. Just a short walk out of the town is the Wrigley Memorial. The island was owned by the Wrigley family (of chewing gum fame) for years. The Wrigley Memorial is a reminder of their neo-aristocratic influence on the place.

The island does not have much in the way of great restaurants, but is has many fair ones; and they all serve wine. We all enjoyed much fruit of the vine while we visited Avalon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

After another hour on the bus from Avalon we made it back to the airport not too jostled. It was another wonderfully clear day and the takeoff was spectacular. The excitement was increased by the huge drop at the end of the runway. Once Matilda lifted off, the ground disappeared below her and gave everyone a rollercoaster sensation. We made a quick pass around the island and over Avalon before heading to Santa Barbara Airport for fuel and lunch.

We left southern California behind us and returned to the beautiful city by the bay.


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