Thanks to being able to use the courtesy car in Idabel I was able to get to the airport and have the plane ready to go by first light. The air was warm and heavy with humidity. I took off as soon as it was light enough to see the taxiways. Idabel doesn’t have parallel taxiways so I back-taxied to runway 20 and launched into the heavy air. The sky was clear and hazy but at least there was no trace of the headwinds I had been fighting on my way down to Oklahoma. I turned westward toward my first fuel stop at Decatur Texas.
Two and a half hours later I was passing over Lake Texoma and shortly after that I was on the ground in Decatur and fueled up. It was already getting hot at 8:30 in the morning. The high temperature for that day was forecast to be 107 so I got out of there as quickly as I could.
The next stop was Sweetwater Texas. I was somewhat concerned that if I landed I would be stuck for a while due to the fact that Sweetwater is surrounded by miles and miles of windmills. Obviously a windy area. After fueling up I asked for courtesy car and a lunch recommendation. The woman at the FBO was pointed tying to get me to not take the car and eat at the cafeteria across the street at the college. Then she told me about a diner about 10 miles up the highway in Roscoe Texas called Retta Mae’s Diner. I elected to go here and I am glad I did! Not only did I have the best hamburger I have had in years, but the waitress really made you feel welcome. She was working hard because it was crowded but she always stopped back by with “you doing okay sugar?” or “you need a refill, honey?” A diner with pretty waitresses addressing you with endearing terms and bringing you delicious food is a fine diner indeed.
After lunch I headed back to the airport. It had gotten hotter and the wind had kicked up. I elected to stop for the day. The woman at the FBO told me that the local La Quinta Inn would offer free pickup and drop off so I called them and about 45 minutes later I was tossing my suitcase on the hotel room bed. The next morning at 5am I was packed and down at the front desk. They drove me back out to the airport and at sunrise I was back in the air headed west again.
My first fuel stop was Carlsbad New Mexico. After fueling up at Carlsbad I had to angle south toward the Mexico border near El Paso to clear the White Sand Missile Range restricted airspace. This was kind of a fun flight for me as I have worked at WSMR several times. It was fun to see it from the air. Once clear of the restricted airspace I pointed toward Las Cruces New Mexico. It was hot and bumpy when I landed in Las Cruces so I stopped for the night. No courtesy car is available in Las Cruces, however, they will rent you a car. I rented the car and went to find a hotel for the night. I spent the night in an unimpressive hotel.
The next morning I took off again at first light and headed west yet again. I flew almost due west toward Tuscon and made Marana Regional my first fuel stop. This is a great little field with a very busy and popular restaurant on the field. I was tempted to stop and eat breakfast here but I was getting really homesick. I also wanted to put as many miles behind me as I could before the bumps started. I gassed up and pointed my nose toward Blythe California.
Two hours later I was making a long straight in approach to Blythe. My GPS was showing storms ahead and I could see a wall of clouds off in the distance. I landed and got gas and then went into the FBO to get a cold drink. It was about 100 degrees outside and there were thunderstorms to the west. I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue that day. Inside the FBO was a couple who were trying to get to Visalia which is about 90 miles south of where I was trying to go. They were going to wait around a while to see if the storms cleared up. I asked for and got the courtesy car and went into town to find a hotel. I checked into a clean Best Western and took a shower and a nap. I realized I had left my keys in the airplane so I drove back out to the airport. I drove up to my plane and noticed that the other couple’s Cessna 210 was still there. As I was getting back into the courtesy Suburban I saw the man walking toward me on the ramp. I knew what he wanted. I invited him to hop in and took him and his wife to their hotel. After agreeing to meet at 5:30 the next morning and securing a promise to split the fuel cost for the courtesy car I took them to their hotel.
I was at their hotel the next morning at 5:30am and as promised they were there and ready. We drove back out to the airport and I was in the air by 6:15am. I headed west again for what I hoped would be my last day of flying. My first fuel stop was Rosamond near Lancaster. I normally stop at Fox Field when I’m in this neighborhood but I thought a smaller airport could use my money. I made a straight in approach to Rosamond and fueled up at the finicky fuel pump. There was no sign of the previous day’s thunderstorms and there was no wind. I thanked my Maker for the lack of weather and then launched west to make my last climb over the hills and then into the Central Valley. I cleared the hills and honestly Bakersfield never looked so good. I finally turned northwest and an hour and a half later I was on the ground back home in Oakdale California.
Epilog coming in a few days.