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Bar Harbor to Taos

Day 18. Monday, 15 July. Bar Harbor.

The sun decided to shine and we went for a "safe" drive along the Loop Road of Acadia National Park. For intrepid adventurers like us to be told to have a "safe day" was quite a come-down! The warning notices in the park are probably designed to prevent lawyers from suing the authorities should someone chance to lose their footing by a steep cliff. After an afternoon on the beach (but not in the cold sea), we went on a sunset cruise for some whale-watching and seal-spotting.

Day 19. Tuesday, 16 July. Bar Harbor to Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. One hour 56 minutes - VFR.

It was Flemming's idea to cycle to the airport (about 12 miles from Bar Harbor!). The back-pack was too heavy and the sun too hot. Flemming was already way ahead when I stopped at a restaurant to ask if I could phone for a "cab". The owner offered to have her friend drive me for ten bucks. It was a pick-up truck so we just slung the bike in the back and went to look for Flemming who was some way down the road looking hot and sweaty! He also was glad of the ride!
It was a smooth flight to Nantucket Island, once the whaling capital of the world and setting of the classic "Moby Dick". The young guys who run the pretty little airport were both friendly and efficient.

Day 20. Wednesday, 17 July. Nantucket to Brookhaven, Long Island, NY. One hour 5 minutes. VFR.

We wandered around town looking at the mansions built in the 19th century when whaling was in its heyday, and then we headed for the beach. Here, at last, the sea was warm enough to risk immersing our bodies in it! After two hours of sizzling in the sun and the occasional dip, we downed some clams and oysters and cycled back to the airport.
Flying VFR in the States is a piece of cake. Let me qualify that by saying that although formalities are minimal - you don't even have to file a flight plan - you do need to have eyes on the back of your head (and cockpit). The usually friendly controllers will generally warn you of other traffic appearing on their radar screen. But they are often very busy and there are also many small planes without transponders. Even when you fly IFR, you must look out for unannounced VFR traffic.
On our approach to Brookhaven, Flemming was quite concerned as the controller said there was another plane around and we couldn't spot it in the haze (visibility 3 miles, heading towards the setting sun). Fortunately, we missed each other!

Days 21 and 22. 18 & 19 July. Brookhaven.

Working days for Flemming at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Day 23. Saturday, 20 July. Brookhaven to Grand Rapids, Michigan. 4 hours 28 minutes - IFR.

We left Brookhaven early as thunderstorms were forecast for later in the day. At a flight level of 10,000 feet, we flew just above the haze the whole way.
Grand Rapids airport is much bigger than I'd imagined. It has three terminals: the main one and 2 FBOs (Fixed Base Operators). We received a warm welcome from one of the FBOs who drove us to the main terminal to find Flemming's cousin Kirsten and her friend Russ (who meanwhile were looking for us at a different FBO!). Grand Rapids in the summer is hot and sultry. Air conditioning in the house and car are a necessity. We sat back (for once!) and enjoyed our friends' hospitality.

Day 24. Sunday, 21 July. Grand Rapids.

There were thunderstorms at 7 a.m. but the weather improved and we spent a sunny day at Russ' sister's lakeside cabin, ending it at his brother Chuck's house, also by a lake. Chuck is by way of being a collector. Not only does he collect children (3 from his wife's first marriage and 2 with her); he also fills every shelf of his house with artefacts picked up on his travels. A long wagon train adorns a high shelf circling the whole living room.

Day 25. Monday, 22 July. Grand Rapids to Taos, New Mexico. 8 hours 58 minutes - IFR.

There were thunderstorms again in the morning so Flemming decided not to leave as early as we'd planned. We had time for a leisurely breakfast before heading for the airport. It was raining as we prepared for our departure and my feet got soaked in my flimsy sandals.
Flemming was determined to make use of our extra fuel tanks and fly direct to Taos since, according to him, the Mid-West is just flat, boring farmland. Almost as soon as we'd taken off, we realized that we'd forgotten to bring any food with us. With an 8-hour flight ahead of us, we knew we would be hungry! Fortunately, before the hunger pangs became too acute, I remembered that we still had our survival food on board. It hadn't been needed in the wilderness of Greenland or the cold seas of the North Atlantic, but in the USA, with any number of airports to land at, it was to prove our saviour!
For the first 3 hours we flew in fine weather at 8000 feet. It was slow going though: we had a 15-knot headwind which added an hour to our flying time. The thunderstorms started as we flew over Kansas. My suggestion that we overnight in Dodge City and enjoy some Wild West atmosphere was overruled... By this time we were flying at 10,000 feet. The stormscope lit up on both sides but, miraculously, there always seemed to be a clear path in between... almost always, that is. After a series of rather boring flights in fine weather, Flemming was enjoying the challenge, while I quivered in my seat.
An hour before we were due to land, we came into rain showers over a mountainous area. It was doubtful whether we would have sufficient visibility to land in Taos which has no ILS. We might have to continue on to our alternate, Santa Fe, where we could make an instrument landing. But, fortunately, there was just sufficient visibility to land in Taos. The cross-wind was strong due to a nearby thunderstorm but Flemming managed it masterfully. The mountains around us were bathed in the subtle light of sunset, the whole effect dramatized by threatening black clouds. 
The airport - closed for the night - was deserted. Not waiting to see if we could get access to the "rest rooms", we dashed for the nearest hiding places. I was in the process of adjusting my clothing when the rain started... and it bucketed down. We dashed back to the plane, getting soaked in the process. While I gathered up our belongings and put up the sun screens(!), Flemming went to the "terminal" building to call a taxi. By this time I was feeling quite ill with a bad sore throat. I couldn't wait to get on some dry shoes and dose myself with Vitamin C. Also, with nothing to eat all day but nuts and dried fruit, I thought it advisable to eat a proper meal. After checking in at a motel, we walked to the nearest restaurant. My meal was spoilt by an attack of something akin to seasickness. Flemming reckoned I was suffering from the high altitude, both locally (we were at 7000 feet) and during the long flight. I drank some coca-cola and the sugar content helped a little.

Days 26 and 27. 23 and 24 July. Taos.

A cold I had definitely caught, so we just did some gentle sightseeing. We visited the Kit Carson museum, the hacienda of a 19th century merchant and the adobe village Taos Pueblo. The good news is that the village is still inhabited by Taos Indians. The bad news is that the only reason they stay there is that they can survive from tourist money. Most of the village is "out of bounds" for the tourists, who can only visit the houses where artefacts (made by other tribes) are sold.

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Arrival in sunny Nantucket island

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Typical Nantucket house
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Taos Pueblo New Mexico
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