Archive for May 1st, 2010

Our First Cross-Country Trip

Last weekend on April 24th Heather and I went on our second flight together and our first cross-country trip. We flew out to Castle Airport (MER) in Merced, CA. We had been to this airport before, but on the ground, as part of past autocross events we attended with the Volkswagen. The airport is an old air force base that has been converted to a civilian airport. The runway is nearly 12,000 feet long; compared to San Carlos at a mere 2600 feet it is endless. It took around 45 minutes of flying to get there, that was the easy part, and then we got to the wacky travels.

Once on the ground we discovered two things: the airport is huge and it is practically abandoned. I talked to the tower and asked him for help in finding the transient parking area. We taxied according to our instructions crossing over tall weeds that were growing through the concrete.

After securing the airplane we walked towards the tower and entered the seemingly empty terminal building. A dude with a long pony tail greeted us and asked how he could help. I told him we were looking for food and potentially interested in visiting the air museum that is on site. He told us there was no food on site but offered us the keys to the crew car and directions to town. We accepted :-) He pulled a white van up front and with the keys in the ignition told us where to find food. Rad.

Our first $100 hamburger was at the Merced McDonald’s. We finished things off with a coffee at Starbucks and then drove back to the airport. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to kill because we only had the airplane reserved for a small block of time and we decided to save the museum tour for another flight out there. On the ramp I did a quick preflight and another airplane that was parked in transient parking started his engine. We weren’t the only people out there after all.

We taxied to the end of the runway, did a quick runup and then got our takeoff clearance. Not even halfway down the 12,000′ runway and no more than 100′ off the ground the controller, anxious to get rid of us apparently, handed us off to a norcal controller. The return flight home was mostly uneventful except as we approached Tracy airport at 4,500′. Norcal called out “traffic, 12 o’ clock, may be doing aerobatics.” Sure enough, straight ahead was an aerobatic plane pointed straight into the sky and climbing fast toward our altitude. Not wanting to get in his way we side stepped around the airport and made the rest of our trip back to San Carlos.

All in all it was fantastic to get out of the busy SFO airspace and actually go somewhere with the wife in the airplane. Couldn’t ask for a finer trip. Just a lot more of them :-)

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