Today and our next day in the Fun to Fly Remos are where the rubber meets the airway, so to speak. Today Patrick and I, flatlanders both, encountered our first real mountains. (Yes, I know we have the Appalachians, but they basically serve as a means of holding in the haze.) And there are more mountains to come before we reach Santa Paula.
We launched from Waco and headed to Midland, Texas, for a quick fuel stop. The leg from Waco to Midland was pretty unexciting with the exception of the fact that we flew past President George Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch, and then later saw what had to have been one of the nation’s largest wind turbine farms. We think we overflew about 3,000 of them.
The leg after Midland was Roswell, N.M.: a perfect stop for lunch and a peak at the downtown area. You need only go a few miles before you start seeing signs for “UFO Storage,” “Alien Gifts!” and “Area 51 Bakery.” (OK, I made that last one up. Maybe I should consider opening an Area 51 Bakery when I retire.) And the Roswell Airport is home to what appears to be the place where 747s go to die. As we were about 10 miles from the airport and I was straining to find the runway, I saw what looked like a bunch of large white buildings, and said so. Patrick spotted them and said, “I think they’re airplanes!” They were. Not just airplanes, but row after row of jets in various stages of disassembly, some without their turbines and some with their corporate logos faded from years of baking in the hot New Mexico sun.
“What do you do here?” Patrick asked our lineman. He replied, with a grin: “We tear up airplanes!”
The final leg, from Roswell to Albuquerque, was the most challenging of the day. We started a long, slow climb to 10,500 feet. With outside air temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, the Remos’s Rotax engine chugged along, but our groundspeed was 60 knots. What seemed like a half-hour later, we arrived at 10,500 feet and breathed a sigh of relief. A bumpy ride ensued as we picked our way through the mountains. Emerging through a pass with Albuquerque just 30 nm away, I felt a lot of relief. And the approach into Double Eagle Airport, with the city spread out under the Sandia Mountains, was breathtaking.