Flying for Food

Mike tries to arrange a group outing for lunch.

We were at Stan’s house on Saturday afternoon when Mike said, “Let’s go fly together somewhere tomorrow.”

Stan’s wife, Rosemarie, and Dave, another local pilot, were there. Stan flies a Cessna 182 and Dave just got a second plane, an RV-4, that he needed to build time in before he could take up passengers. Mike is half owner of a Grumman Tiger.

What followed was a discussion of various responsibilities the next day. We finally decided to meet at the airport at 1 PM and fly somewhere for lunch. The “somewhere” wasn’t decided.

On Sunday morning, during breakfast, Mike and I started to discuss where we could fly. We brainstormed and came up with a list of airports within flying distance that had restaurants nearby:

Restaurants on Field:
– Prescott
– Falcon Field (2!)
– Payson
– Kingman
– Deer Valley
– Glendale
– Scottsdale
– Chandler
– Winslow (weird hours)

Restaurants within walking distance:
– Seligman
– Valle
– Chiriaco Summit (CA)

Restaurants within free shuttle distance:
– Parker (restaurant at the casino)
– Bullhead City (restaurants across river in Laughlin)

Quite a selection. (Note that Wickenburg isn’t on this list. Why someone with a few bucks doesn’t build a restaurant on the field is beyond me. I know why I don’t do it: I’ve already been through the employer nightmare in Wickenburg and have learned my lesson.)

Sunday morning progressed. We had chores to do around the house. We even cleaned a small part of the garage! Then Mike made the fatal error of attacking the mistletoe that had begun killing some of our mesquite trees. (Mistletoe is a parasitic plant and, if not periodically cut out of the trees it infests, it’ll kill the trees.) It was hard work that required him to stand in awkward positions with a heavy saw over his head. After 45 minutes of that, he was too tired to do anything. Including fly.

That didn’t bother me. I wanted to fly anyway. I felt pretty confident that I could get to the destination around the same time as the two planes. Zero-Mike-Lima cruises at 110 knots, but I could easily push it to 120 knots with only two people on board. I’d already called Jim to invite him to join us with his Hughes 500c. Although he wasn’t sure he would, it would be nice to have two helicopters with the two airplanes. I was hoping we’d go to Falcon Field; I really love the Italian restaurant, Anzio’s Landing, on the southeast end of the runway. And there’s plenty of parking right out front.

By the time we got to the airport at 12:40 PM, the wind had kicked up a bit. It was blowing across the runway at about 8 to 10 knots. Airplane pilots don’t like crosswinds. When no one had arrived by 12:55, I got the feeling that Mike’s plan wasn’t going to become a reality.

Jim was already there, working on his Beech 18. He bought the Beech a few months ago in Florida and managed to leak 10 gallons of oil from one of its engines on the ferry flight back to Arizona. Since then, he’d been working on finding and fixing the leaks. He thought he had it taken care of when he flew out to Blythe for some touch-and-goes the other day, but the left engine was still oozing. A bad O-ring on one of the cylinders. He has to pull the cylinder to fix it. In the meantime, he’s begun pulling just about everything else. Last month, he pulled out the floor and replaced it. He’s now waiting for new runners on which to mount the rear seats. Yesterday, when we arrived, he was pulling instruments out of the panel and rearranging them in more logical positions. His helicopter was not at the airport. His wife, Judith, had already said she didn’t want to come with us, so Jim had decided to work on the Beech — something he could probably do for the rest of his life if he wanted to.

Stan and Rosemarie drove up right around 1 PM. I was talking to Jim when they pulled up, so I missed the beginning of their conversation with Mike. But the end result was that they’d come with us in the helicopter. Dave wasn’t coming. So a flight that started with potentially four aircraft ended up with just one.

Of course, with the helicopter, the list of dining opportunities increases. Helicopters don’t need no stinkin’ runway. There were at least five more places we could eat:
The Wayside Inn, near Alamo Lake, is the destination for Flying M Air‘s “Hamburger in the Middle of Nowhere.”
Robson’s Mining World, in Aguila, has a nice little cafe.
– Wild Horse West, near Lake Pleasant, has great burgers.
– The Kofa Cafe, out in Vicksburg Junction, used to be very good, but I haven’t been back since
my first experience with the new owner.
– A truckstop on I-10 south of Vicksburg has a dirt strip out back where you can land and not dust the truckers.

Mike wanted to go to the Wayside Inn, so that’s where we went. You can read all about it in another blog entry. The food ain’t bad and the atmosphere is definitely different, especially if you live in a big city and don’t have much exposure to an off-the-grid lifestyle.

We flew by way of Robson’s, which was pretty quiet that afternoon. Robson’s big anniversary celebration is coming up on the first Saturday in January, and I think they get more visitors in that one day than they get all year long. I do helicopter rides out there during the event and it’s always a lot of fun. Then we followed Ballard Wash (I think) from its narrow start almost all the way to Alamo Lake. I circled the Wayside once, trying to find a flag to judge the wind, then realized there wasn’t much wind there and just set down in my usual spot near the intersection of two dirt roads and the old, unmaintained dirt strip. (If you ever fly out there in a small plane, I recommend landing on the road rather than the strip; it’s a lot smoother and better maintained.) I kicked up a huge cloud of dust that drifted to the east as I cooled down the engine and shut down.

We crossed the road and went into the restaurant. Everyone at the bar looked at us. “I knew it was you,” the waitress said.

“Yeah, well…” I said. Everyone laughed.

We had lunch among the fish photos and trophies. The place was relatively quiet. The last time we’d been in there with helicopters, a crowd had gathered and the restaurant was completely full. I guess having four helicopters and a plane parked outside is a bit of a draw to the locals. But that day it was just us and a man eating at the bar. A few people came and went.

We paid up and left. As I started up, a few people in ATVs parked at the end of the dirt strip, facing us, ready for a show. They were not rocket scientists. Not only had they parked right in front of me, forcing me to depart in a different direction so as not to overfly them, but they were close enough to get seriously dusted when I took off. I took off to the northwest, along the road to Alamo Lake.

We did a tour of Alamo Lake, then the Santa Maria River, and then Date Creek before heading into Wickenburg. It had been a nice little outing — even if we were the only aircraft to participate.

2 thoughts on “Flying for Food

  1. My hubby and I want to go up there; unfortunately, we do not have a plane or a helicopter. Alas! However I loved your description of flying in there one day and when I clicked on the first blog, it was not there.



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