How many pilots are out there? Probably a lot more pilots out there than we think. Many folks I have talked with over the years seems to know of a pilot or someone who has a pilot’s license. My brother is just such a pilot. He has been flying small light (that’s kinda what they’re called) aircraft starting with the ol’ Cesna 172/182 and finally purchasing his own Beechcraft Bonanza A36. The Beach A36 is very nice and a comfortable 4-6 seat configurable single engine aircraft with a wide array of electronics (avionics) that make small work out of flying. My brother really likes to fly and he’s quite good at it; however, his wife hates flying. So, my brother mostly flies by himself to destinations throughout Southern California. Recently he asked me if I wanted to travel up to the northern part of California (Humboldt) to see his daughter while she’s in school (Humboldt . . . duh!); stopping for the night in Concord to see his son, tour his son’s school, the California Maritime Academy, and going out to dinner for his son’s birthday.
I looked at my schedule and was able to find a gap between my school quarters, class schedules, work schedule and my wife’s schedule to allow me to participate as co-bro-pilot for him in the right seat. I am no pilot, “but I did just stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night”. (Sorry, I had to do that . . . again!) I know how to do everything except land . . . that’s the tricky part. Anyway, My brother and I had planned this Friday get-away weekend of flying up north and returning to the work week on that Sunday. What is it they say about “best laid plans”? Exactly. The plans kept changing slightly as we added new dimensions and subtracted others. None too late though as everything was almost perfectly planned and even more perfectly executed.
So now I again ask you about knowing a pilot. You know a pilot . . . how many of you know a pilot that also flies around with his own mechanic? Well, I’m not really his mechanic. I know how to fix most anything on his aircraft because I worked on various aircraft for 20 years while in the Navy, but I never became certified to repair aircraft on a civil aviation Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate. Which is even more funny because I maintained specialties in my education and military experience that is considered so special, that I can teach those same A&P mechanics, even if I have no license (A&P). Ha!, top that one!
So now here’s this pilot flying around with his mechanic. We talk about all kinds of shit while flying, many things related and unrelated to aviation all while searching for the next call for traffic in the area. “Bonanza Six-Six-Four-One-Mike (6641M), traffic eleven o-clock, southwest bound, 8 thousand feet, two miles”, squawks the Air Traffic Controller (ATC). We both look frantically in the sky just below our horizon in front and slightly to the left of centerline searching for anything, a shimmer, a shadow or maybe a silhouette to make identification of anything that may or maybe not become a “factor”, as it is called in aviation. “There”, I shout. Pointing with my finger as the aircraft swiftly approaches; than just a swiftly, sneaks out of our sight. With both aircraft traveling over 150 miles per hour, they come and go quickly so finding them is critical. Sometimes you find them, other times you see nothing of the sort. Another call comes from the radio, “Bonanza 6641M, traffic no longer a factor”. That went on for a good solid hour while traveling through the Los Angeles Airport controlled airspace. There are a lot of aircraft around that joint; it is very hectic.
So our little excursion of what we’re calling an airborne road trip started for my brother from Oxnard, CA. He flew down to Oceanside to pick me up. I met him and my Father and Mother at the Oceanside Municipal Airport so we can all go to lunch at Fresh Grill Bistro http://freshgrillbistrooceanside.com/ ; a new Mexican, American BBQ fusion kind of joint. My Father seems to know just about everyone from different functions around town, so everywhere we go he seems to get started with conversations. First thing, he introduces me to Chef Christian just as some lady comes up to him and asks him about his dog. My Father’s trying to introduce me and interact with someone who knows him, but he has yet to recognize. All of this confusion at the ordering counter, I’m surprised the person taking our order kept things straight.
The Fresh Grill Bistro seems to be nicely decorated, have adequate space, and they have an outdoor patio area their hailing as “dog friendly”. They even sport their own coffee-house called the Caffeine Bar. I decided to go with the Chef’s personal recommendation of the Grilled Salmon Salad; which, for some odd reason, I was hoping was on the menu. I knew I was going to have BBQ for lunch the following day, so I wanted something fresh, light and delicious. Chef Christian pulled through on this dish. A decent sized serving and full of great flavors with walnuts, feta cheese and balsamic dressing. I did however notice that the perfect grill marks on the presentation side of the fish, was not the same as that of the hidden side (down against the rest of the salad) where the fish was quite a bit more charred, almost to the point of being unacceptable even for this “grill bistro”. The flavor was there and I like my food with a bit more texture, so it did not bother me, but it was something worth noting. I guess it’s something only this Dick would notice, and I gotta write it if I want them to fix it for my next visit.
My Brother and Mother both had the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. They quickly discovered the bun was not up to the task of the chicken breast. My mother and Brother both deconstructed their sandwiches and ate with a fork and knife because the bun just flattened and was useless for this particular sandwich. The Grilled Chicken demanded a heavier bun or roll. My Father had the Pulled Pork Sandwich that used the same bun. The bun was fine for his sandwich and he had no complaints about his dish. The Fresh Grill Bistro offers many different items on their menu and they also boast senior specials that got my Father’s attention. I did glance over at another table and saw a huge BBQ plate of ribs and brisket. That was a large serving and it looked as though I better order it when I try their BBQ on the next trip. Give the Fresh Grill Bistro a try. Let Chef Christian know what you think. I believe he has something here, perhaps with just a minor amount of twerking . . . I mean tweaking.
So we head into the San Francisco Bay area and land in Concord, CA. We play a quick round of 9-hole golf, head out for dinner, call it a night and head back to the hotel. The next morning we eat and head across the desert to Lake Havasu City where we are to take a Colorado river trip down from Pirate’s Cove in Needles, CA. We meet our family and friends up river for an afternoon boat ride down the gorge and through the channel under London Bridge and enjoy a bit of sun on the way. That story just a bit later . . .
Flying now from the San Fransico Bay area toward Lake Havasu City in Arizona, we found ourselves along a similar coridor that we used to travel from Los Angeles (LA) up to Concord. The coridor is situated over areas of the high desert above LA. Areas like Palmdale and Lancaster. There are several military installations out in that area; and, like flying around any place that has a lot of air traffic, there are frequent calls about other aircraft sharing the same airspace. “Bonanza 6641M, traffic 2 o-clock, 8 thousand feet, four miles . . . a U2”, the controller calls out. “Call when you have in sight”. “41M, Roger”, my brother responds. Just about then I notice the U2 about 2000 feet below us passing just under and slightly behind us. I found this pretty entertaining video about the U2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PmYItnlY5M&noredirect=1.
So that leg of our journey was pretty cool. How many folks in the sky can say they’ve seen a U2 “Dragon Lady” spy aircraft actually flying . . . but below them?
I give this adventure 9-holes of really shitty golf! I would give it 9-holes of good golf, but we know better!