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
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
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