Back Into The Wilder Blue Yonder, Part 11

As soon as we got up the next morning, I checked the weather, with special focus on the winds in the normal California desert. From some climatology studies I had done for this trip, I knew the desert winds would normally push up toward the airplane’s recommended operating limits by 1 p.m.  Today, the winds were already up and forecasted to gust to upward of 40 knots by 9 a.m., the time we would be overflying the area.  The regular NOAA forecasts for the area seemed to indicate that the winds would die down to something more normal by the next day, and ADDS was showing we would still have some very nice tailwinds at altitude.  Though our little airplane appeared to be in great shape, I had little time in the thing and our upcoming legs home were over some pretty inhospitable country. Our first planned landing point was Blythe, California, and while the winds there were forecast to be within limits, they were at the upper end of the “okay” scale.  I decided that the better part of valor was to sit this one out.  I told Connie I thought it best to delay a day.  She agreed that though we could make it, it made better sense to delay a day and get better conditions.  We didn’t “have” to be back until Monday.  Even with this one-day delay, we still had three more days to get back to Houston.

After stopping by the hotel desk and getting our room extended for a day, we hopped in the hotel’s shuttle van and got a ride out to Loyd’s out at the airport.  As I talked to the receptionist at the desk and paid for our gas as well as got our sheltered cover extended for a day.  Connie found a kneeboard she wanted which I immediately bought, adding to our trip’s expense sheet.   I then asked if they might be able to help us get a rental car, and they called Enterprise who said they did have one they’d bring.  An hour later, we had signed paperwork and were happily about, using our iPhones as travel directors to help us find a McDonald’s; Connie wanted a Diet Coke.

We did find a McDonald’s and the Walmart where we stopped so Connie could get a few things she wanted.  We rolled through McDonald’s a second time to grab lunch and then went back to the hotel.  Being the great partiers we were, we took naps even though was ready “to go do something”.  I suddenly found myself feeling very tired; the whole airplane buying and training evolution had been very stressful, and I was coming downhill off it for the first time.  While there was still the trip home to consider, it still was more in my control than the first part of this effort had been; so, it felt less threatening.

For supper, we drove over to a Red Lobster and ate seafood.  I then took us back to the hotel where I reworked our flight planning.  Our original plan had been to fly from Columbia to Fox Field at Lancaster, CA and go east from there; our diversion to Bakersfield meant a landing at Lancaster was no longer necessary to maintain the two to two-and-a- half hour legs we liked to fly.  The new plan had us flying to Blythe, CA for a gas stop and then onward t Casa Grande, Arizona, just south of Phoenix.  Once there, we would either stop for the night or continue on one more leg to Las Cruces, New Mexico where I knew some good Mexican food restaurants awaited.  The surface winds so problematic today were not forecasted to be a problem tomorrow.  I planned on climbing us up to 9500 feet to ensure the little airplane would fly there; the next leg of the trip east from Casa Grande counted on us being able to go that high to cross a couple of mountain ranges east of Phoenix.  Otherwise, we’d have to fly further south to stay near I-10 as it crossed slightly lower lands around Tucson and on eastward.

I told Connie the weather looked good for the trip tomorrow but that, if we continued on past Casa Grande, we’d have to watch out for possible scattered thunderstorms along our route, especially as we approached New Mexico.  There had been more than a splattering of them along our proposed route today, and I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case tomorrow as the system spawning them moved east.

It would turn out that the biggest threat to us wouldn’t be the weather at all.