Every now and then I end up on a truly fantastic journey in the plane. Challenging, fun, scenic, and constantly changing. This was one of those journeys.
It was a business trip to the Phoenix area and since the first meeting was at 9:00 am I flew out the night before. I decided (well, why not?) to land at the Grand Canyon that night, and head out with my bike and camera to spend some time on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It is actually a fantastic place for a road bike because they have closed the rim road to cars and only allow shuttle buses and bikes. So I was able to bike along, occasionally in the rain, stopping at various viewpoints as the sun got lower and the light changed in the canyon. The weather and rain kept the crowds away and I really had a good time riding and waiting for the light and weather to create a good photo opportunity.
By the way, someone commented that I should have an occasional photo of me on here, so I asked a fellow tourist on the rim to take my photo and have included it.
The next morning I got up before dawn at my hotel and got ready to bike back to my plane (only one mile), when I noticed the sky was lighting up with lightening. Whoops! So much for the rule of thumb that the southwest is always flyable in the morning. I got to my plane and as it started to get light I could see I could fly and avoid the nearby storms. Still, my XM weather radar on the plane was showing lines of thunderstorms blocking my path to Phoenix. It would be a challenging flight.
I took off from the Grand Canyon and was treated to a spectacular sunrise showing itself through a line of storm cells. Almost unbelievable. From that point on I flew the crookedest path I’ve ever flown as I weaved around weather. I did get the plane wet in virga but in the end I was comfortable that I flew the route in a safe manner.
The journey didn’t end there. At the end of my meetings in the afternoon the thunderstorms were still going on. I flew a more westerly route towards home and it was easy to see-and-avoid the cells. However it started to get dark and see-and-avoid doesn’t work as well at night so I decided to stop at Death Valley for the night and continue on the morning. Being mid-September I thought I could camp at the airport, but I stepped out of the plane into 113 degree heat and blowing 15 mph. That is WAY too hot and windy to sleep, so I got out my bike and rode to the Furnace Creek Ranch and luckily got the last room. Apparently Death Valley is very popular with Europeans even in the extreme heat of the summer. We had weekend plans at home so I got up very early Saturday morning and made the one and half hour flight home in good weather, in time to join my family on the river.