I make a tough decision each day on what vehicle I’ll use to commute to work.
I’m spoiled. I know it. Even though I live in a tiny trailer when I’m working at the Grand Canyon, I have three vehicles to choose from for my daily commute from Howard Mesa to Grand Canyon Airport.
Three! The first is my “airport car,” a 1987 Toyota MR2. I’m the original owner of this little gem and put most of its 130,000 miles on it. I learned to drive a stick shift on it and it still has the original clutch. (Okay, so it’s a little high, but it does still work. Toyotas are great cars.) I remember when it was brand new and shiny and lovingly waxed. Now its paint is faded from the sun, its windshield is pitted from road debris, and it’s covered with dust. Still, it gets about 25-30 miles to the gallon — something to consider when fuel is $2+ per gallon. And it’s peppy. (Read that fast.)The second is my 1999 Jeep. It’s perfect for the 5 miles of dirt road between the main highway and the trailer atop Howard Mesa. Unfortunately, it only gets about 15 miles per gallon and its soft top makes a ton of noise at highway speeds. And it rides like a cardboard box in heavy wind.
The third is my 1999 Robinson R22 Beta II helicopter. Yes, I brought that with me. Heck, why the hell not? It’s not like anyone would be flying it at home. And there’s nothing like turning a 36-mile, 45-minute commute into a 25-nautical mile, 20-minute commute. Of course, it burns about 10 gallons of fuel per hour and with warmup and shutdown time, the hobbs meter registers .5 hours after each commuting flight. 100LL costs $3+ per gallon up here. Ouch. And let’s not even talk about the other cost of operating that vehicle.
Three Niner Lima and the Toyota parked behind the camper at Howard Mesa.
Of course, they’re not all here at the same time. For example, tonight the Jeep and Toyota are at Howard Mesa and the helicopter is at the airport. The other night, the helicopter and Toyota were at Howard Mesa and the Jeep was at the airport. Sometimes it’s tough to remember where each of them are. But it’s easy if I remember that two vehicles are always where I am. When I drive the Jeep to the airport tomorrow, both the Jeep and the helicopter will be at the airport with me while the Toyota waits patiently atop the mesa.
So how do I decide? Well, when I’m tired after a hard day flying or if it’s really windy at quitting time, I take whatever road vehicle is at the airport to Howard Mesa. If I’m not tired and feel like getting back home quickly, I take the helicopter. Pretty easy decision.
In the morning, it’s also an easy decision. I take the helicopter. I love flying it in the morning. But this morning, I took the Toyota. Why? Because I thought I might be driving to Flagstaff from work. I hate driving the Jeep long distances because of all that roof noise. The other day, I took the Jeep home from the airport even though it wasn’t noisy. Why? I’m still trying to figure that one out. I did discover, however, that the side step on the driver’s side needs welding. So I have to take it back to the airport tomorrow. Bummer.
Why all these vehicles? So I have options. I don’t want to get stuck at the airport or at the trailer. With two vehicles wherever I am, there’s always an option for getting from point A to point B.
And if you’re wondering what I have at home, it’s my sole remaining car, a 2003 Honda S2000. That car will never see the top of Howard Mesa.