About the only thing I knew about Barstow, California, was that it was the subject of a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. When Patrick and I landed at Barstow-Daggett airport last Thursday, it represented an important milestone for the Fun to Fly Remos’s trek out West: our last fuel stop before Santa Paula. This leg from Sedona, Arizona, also provided some of the starkest terrain of the trip–mottled, grey-brown stretches that more closely resembled the surface of the moon than Earth.
Thirty miles out from the airport, splotches of green had begun to show up on the Garmin 496, and we decided we’d check the weather thoroughly before taking off again. Having come so far, we didn’t want to fall prey to get-there-itis. An Army helicopter maneuvering in the vicinity offered to let us get in first, saying, “I’m sure you’re faster than I am.” We laughed and said, “Probably not.” On final to Runway 26, Patrick hit the PTT switch to bring up the VASI–nothing. And we heard a laconic voice on the unicom say, “It doesn’t do any good.”
The voice belonged to our lineman, who came out to help us fuel up and directed us to the FBO behind the FBO–a brand-new pilot lounge with weather computer situated behind a trailer. As I was fueling–which can be a lengthy process with the Remos–he explained that the pilot-controlled lighting doesn’t activate until dusk. Of the 87-degree temperature, he observed: “Don’t let this fool you. In July and August it gets to be 115 degrees. ”
But it wasn’t 115 degrees that day, and the Remos did fine with a climb to 8,500 to take us over the ridges and mountains. The last bit of excitement was a call from Los Angeles Center advising us that a Southwest 737 was at our six o’clock, 1,000 feet below and 10 miles behind. The rational part of my brain knew that was plenty of separation. The other part–the part that hates turbulence–worried about the possibility that a wake vortex might, on this occasion, decide to travel upwards. It didn’t happen.