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Here you will find random bits of me

Friday, March 16, 2012

run for the border and back: part one


getting out of carson city/carson valley was a long time coming, but we were eventually on the road and heading toward socal by 9:30ish… +/-.

favorable weather accompanied us for the duration of day 1 as we traveled through the eastern sierra and points south. we did encounter a little snow near the road while we were in the higher elevations on highway 395 – near june lake and mammoth – but none on the pavement.

we stopped briefly overlooking mono lake (pron: mow-no lake) to dig the view and so i could grab a geocache and we were back on the road.

mono lake

our next stop would be in bishop where we had lunch at meadow farms mahogany smoked meats on the north side of town. do yourself a favor and stop here for lunch or to buy about 10 pounds of their wonderful bacon; the best i have ever eaten! i had a triple-decker sandwich on toasted sourdough with a tall stack of smoked roast beef and bacon with lettuce, tomato and horseradish mayonnaise. it has a name, but i’ll be damned if i can remember it; something like the western, or cowboy, or rodeo or something like that. fred had another named sandwich that comes with black forest ham, capicola ham and salami. i’m uncertain as to what veggies and condiments came on it. since my sandwich was so thick, i disassembled it and ate the bacon separately, which made me want to order a pound of cooked bacon just to snack on as we continued our trip south. we ate only half of our sandwiches – and all my bacon – and wrapped up the rest for later. this is a must stop if you are traveling through the owens valley! they do ship their smoked meats.

our next stop would be near the southern end of the owens valley at coso jct. to hit the rest area – to rest, of course – and so i could find my second geocache of the trip. five minutes later and we were back on the road.

we stopped for gas in inyokern, where i unwrapped and ate the leftovers of my sandwich from mahogany smoked meats. have i told you just how good that sandwich was?

the mojave desert.

my, how this place has changed since i lived in socal. it is non-stop houses and businesses from adelanto to interstate 15. it used to be just open desert and no cross streets, except for the occasional dirt road. there must be close to a dozen signals and a seemingly endless stream of traffic getting out of my old home-away-from-home.

this makes me hate southern california even more than i already do.

over and down the cajon pass (“hello, naked people!”), to where i-215 splits from the i-15 and onto the fabled san bernardino freeway; sing it johnny “guitar” watson and/or adrian belew: “we’ll spend the rest of our lives in san ber’dino.”

as we passed through banning and beaumont, we were greeted by the one-day-past-full moonrise and a myriad of inefficient yet heartwarming (at least to liberals that don’t mind spending tax dollars on boondoggles) windmills. yep: the green-scam continues, dear friends.

the temperature in indio as we passed through registered 74 degrees in the truck’s mirror, but cooled a bit as we continued to drive to the south. when we stopped in brawley to get gas, the girl at the convenience store counter was complaining about how cold it was: 62 degrees at about 9pm.

we stayed in the hotel dismal next to i-8 where i had a restless full moon night of sleep.


after a quick breakfast, we were headed west on i-8 passed ocotillo and barrel and (that damned) cholla cacti and into the mountains that extend almost to san diego toward the little hamlet of boulevard, california where we stayed in the bunkhouse of the boulevard empire ranch, a lovely property with lots of trees, a few horses, a pond with ducks, unseen fish and turtles, 4000+ foot landing field, 1000 yard gun range and lots of birds of various species and songs.

boulevard empire ranch caretaker's house

stables at the ranch

after checking in with gordie, the caretaker (i want his job), we unloaded our luggage and headed east a few short miles to the very little, formerly resort town of jacumba (pron: hah-coom-bah) and the even smaller airport which parallels the mexican border, a mere 100 yards south of the runway, where we would hook up with members of the associated glider clubs of southern california, one of which earliest members was a person by the name of charles lindbergh. perhaps you’ve heard of him.

me and fred at the border fence.
yeah, it's pretty tall.

one of the agcsc’s current members is an inventor and interesting character by the name of roman wrosz, who designed and built a winch-tow system to launch gliders that uses a very lightweight synthetic rope called "spectra" instead of the very heavy wire cable that has been used for decades; it takes four or five guys to lift a 2000 foot spool of the wire cable, but one person can carry 5000 feet of the new stuff. since there is much less weight hanging off the glider and being wound up on the drum of the winch, it provides much faster and more efficient launches. roman’s winch is powered by a 650 horsepower diesel engine. between the engine’s output and the light weight of the cable, a glider can be launched to 2000 feet above the deck in about 30 seconds… and let me tell you: it is one thrilling takeoff… more on that later.

roman wrosz with his amazing winch

the reason we are here is so fred can attend the clinic being presented by the agcsc on how to operate, and launch from, the winch. my original plan was to drop fred off at the clinic and head out into the desert to explore for a few days. by the time we got there, however, i decided that if they needed an extra hand or two, i would offer mine as a ground crew member.

they did and mine were used.

roman demonstrating how to repair a broken cable.
more on broken cables in part 3.

actually, i didn’t do much of anything on friday except sit in with the oral lesson. most of it involved things i would not have to know to do what i would be doing on saturday and sunday, but my curious nature found it all quite interesting, albeit a long presentation.

trying to slip through the fence to avoid taxes

my "work" began just prior to sunset when bud robinson, president of the agcsc, assigned me to duty on the grill roasting russets, yams and ears of corn as he cut generous slices of rib eyes from a boneless prime rib roast, which we all grilled ourselves.

after a delicious dinner, which always seems to taste better in the desert, we headed back to the ranch for showers and eventually made our way to our respective beds after some "hanger flying" (racers know this as “bench racing”; others may know it as bullshitting.) with alasdar mullarney and chuck coyne, who were sleeping in the room next to us.

the bunkhouse

the hot tub, bunkhouse and main house

the pond

to be continued…

run for the border and back: part two


jacumba and the surrounding areas may be in the desert, but – and those of you familiar with most any desert – will know that it is not always a place of intense heat as most non-desert people think. the nights were chilly and the mornings were cold, but the days were mostly sunny and warm, making it possible for me to come home with a little color on my face and arms.

yeah, it gets cold in the desert, too.
shot outside the bunkhouse door.

i spent most of the day towing the club’s schweizer 2-33 sailplane from where it landed, back up to the eastern end of the dirt/gravel runway, where it was staged for take off using the roman wrosz winch positioned at the far western end of the landing field, which is about 3000 feet in length. Fred and the other pilots were learning (or, in fred’s case: relearning) how to launch from a winch and how much more effective roman’s winch is compared to winches used in the past. Others, including fred – who was doing double duty, were learning how to “drive” the winch.

fred and alasdar on another training flight

it was a long and dusty day, but i enjoyed every minute of it, especially after agcsc president, bud robinson, informed me that i might get a ride for my efforts… maybe this afternoon; maybe tomorrow.

fred and alasdar on a launch

as the day progressed well into the afternoon and the shadows began to lengthen, i was beginning to resolve myself to the idea that my first ride in a sailplane might have to wait until tomorrow.

fred and alasdar on their way up

that would be ok. if you remember: i was going to just hang out in the dez for a few days, which is what i was doing here on the landing strip anyway. so, i was happy and having a great time.

i was even happier when i heard that my ride would, indeed, be this afternoon and that the pilot who would take me aloft would be our bunkhouse neighbor, alasdar mullarney.

as i got into the schweizer 2-33, i felt a bit like getting into my firesuit and helmet and climbing into the redhead steamliner for the first time. despite the bulky appearance of the 2-33, i had a difficult time trying to find a place where i could put my feet and legs so alasdar could work the controls without me interfering with the plane’s operation. the back seat, which is from where alasdar flew the glider, looked even more cramped. fred helped me with my belts, which are very similar to what we used in the ranchero and gave me some advice on being prepared for the aggressive launch from the winch.

ready for my first glider flight

“winch: stand by.”, alasdar announced into the radio from the backseat as my heart rate surely began to increase.

“winch standing by.”, came from the speakers inside the cockpit.

standing by for launch with alasdar mullarney

one of the members of the ground crew – maybe fred – declared: “the pattern is clear.” meaning: there were no aircraft in the immediate vicinity.

landing gear (aka: wheels) on a glider are not like those on a powered aircraft, which generally are a tricycle layout, or one under each wing with a caster wheel under the tail. gliders generally have one and sometimes two wheels, but they are inline in the center of the fuselage. so, unless they are tied down on the apron, gliders rest at an angle on one of the wingtips. to aid in the takeoff procedure, ground crew support and balance the wings and push off from the tail, not that it appeared the tail pusher really needed to help the sufficiently powerful winch.

“wing and tail.”, alasdar said, and the ground crew leveled the plane and were ready to aid our launch.

“winch: take up slack.”, alasdar requested over the radio.

“taking up slack.”, came from the radio’s speaker and i could see the extra cable and leader begin to slowly shorten. as soon as all the slack was taken up and i could feel just the slightest tug from the winch over ½ mile away, alasdar said into the microphone: “go. go. go.”

before the third “go” came from alasdar’s mouth, i was laid back into the seat like i was in a top fuel dragster and about a second-and-a-half later the schweizer was airborne. as soon as we were high enough, alasdar began to rotate (pull back on the stick) and stood the plane on its tail, which intensified the sensation of being pressed against the seat.

i have to admit that all this happened so fast that i neglected to attempt to read any of the instruments to determine just how fast we were climbing. i, however, did look out the window to see the ground quickly getting farther and farther from beneath us as alasdar announced our speed so the winch drivers could keep us at the schweizer’s target speed: “5-5 (55 mph)… 5-8… 5-2… 5-5… 5-2… 4-8… 5-2…”

from the speaker i heard, “winch powering down.” “cable drop.”, was alasdar’s reply and he pushed the stick forward to increase our speed and keep us in the air, which was a little bit of a surprise to me, as the winch crew radioed back to us: “it’s a clean break.”

the view from the front seat

suddenly the aggressiveness of the launch turned into something much more sedate. since the schweizer is an old design (i believe i heard somebody say that the 2-33 was first made in the 1940s) and constructed out of aluminum instead of fiberglass or carbon fiber, it is a bit noisy, but not nearly as loud as flying a powered aircraft.

view to the north as we soared to gain some ridge lift

pulling the stick to the right, alasdar made a 180° turn and we headed over to the hills to the east of the runway to grab some “ridge lift” to keep us aloft and, hopefully, take us even higher. within a short period of time, we crossed high over the border fence and i became an international soarer as alasdar expertly chose where to point the glider to grab every bit of lift we could to keep from having to land sooner than we intended.

over mexico and looking north across the border
notice the 1/4 mile gap in the fence.
what's that about?

on a couple of occasion, we flew to one end of the ridge and just made tight circles that, when i looked down, didn’t look as though we were making any forward motion; just graceful pirouettes. “this is what you see hawks doing.”, offered aladar.

yeah. i was having a good time!

it was sublime!

eventually, as alasdar pointed us away from the ridge lift for the last time, he said, “be ready for this!”.

oh shit, i thought, not knowing what to expect, as he put us into a dive to gain airspeed, pulled back on the stick – almost putting us into a stall and dipped the left wing down in a maneuver known as a “wingover”.

mexico directly below us with the border fence
and the good ol' u.s. of a. in the distance

in very short order, alasdar had bled-off enough speed by weaving back and forth for us to land.

i think i was high from that for the next 3 or 4 hours.

after securing the 2-33 on the apron, bud invited me and fred for another dinner of steak, potatoes and corn, which i gladly took the duty of again turning the potatoes and corn.

back at the ranch, fred and i were showered and in our beds before alasdar, chuck or our new bunkhouse mates – alan and ron, returned. the change to daylight saving time dictated that the morning would come an hour earlier on sunday and neither of us were getting a whole lot of sleep in the unfamiliar setting.

to be continued…

run for the border and back: part three


it seems i always hang with the right people for just about any given situation.

hanging with fred in this situation was no exception.

when we arrived to jacumba on friday, fred introduced himself as just “fred, from minden.”

to which most of those to whom he introduced himself would reply something like: “are you fred lasor from minden?”

yeah, that fred from minden in the scheizer 2-33
with steve and alasdar!

it was like going to the bonneville salt flats and people saying: “are you elmo gillette?” after the ol’ man introduced himself as “elmo”.

i have known for some time that fred was pretty sharp on multiple levels, but it was very cool for that to not only be confirmed, but to realize that he is “the dude”!

the dude and i arrived a little late on a cloudy and windy sunday morning after breakfast, but not so late that it ruffled any feathers. maybe it was a benefit of being “the dude”; maybe not.

bud told me that my duty on sunday would be winch-line retrieval, meaning, i would drive roman’s truck, chase down the cable, hook it to the trailer hitch and drive it at a speed of 25 to 30 mph back to the flight line on the other end of the runway.

winch view of a winch launch

the act, however, was easier said than done as the wind coming from mexico this morning kept catching the small parachute at the end of the cable and blowing it off into the booney bushes that surrounded the little airfield.

another view from the winch

since none of the pilots have yet been “signed off” and they all wanted that certification, not only was it going to be a long day, i was probably not going to get another ride.

the wind, however, shifted and the sun came out and it did not take long to get back on schedule and all of the pilots were wearing smiles of success for being certified on the cable launch system.

after the certificates were granted, two of the club’s other gliders were brought out to the flight line: the single seat szd 51-1 junior and the two seat szd 50 puchasz (pron.: poo-hahz), both nice looking planes and considered medium to high performance aircraft suitable for aerobatics.

after some of the club members who were acting as ground crew got flights in the various club aircraft, it was my turn for my second ride.

this time i would not only ride in the sporty puchasz, i would operate the radio during the launch and throughout the flight. before our flight, alasdar, who would once again be my pilot, offered to let me take the controls once we were aloft, but i declined – not because i was afraid i would auger us into the ground, but i quickly learned on my previous flight that soaring correctly is very much a thinking-persons’ game and did not want to take us out of the lift required to stay at altitude and make the ride shorter than i, or alasdar, wanted. if i had been there to learn how to soar, i would have eagerly taken the stick and rudder, but i was there for the fun and wanted every ounce i could get.

the sporty puchasz just before my next flight.
notice the 1/4 mile gap in the border fence.
what's that about?

climbing into the puchasz and strapping myself in was just as full of anticipation as my first flight in the 2-33; i was expecting more from this flight since it is a high performance bird, therefore was ready for new experiences.

“winch: stand by.”, i announced over the radio.

“winch standing by.”

the canopy was still up and we exchanged a few words with bud before it was closed and alasdar asked me to reconfirm the readiness of the winch drivers.

“winch: stand by.”

“winch standing by.”

“our target speed is 5-5 and we are launching the puchasz.”

“roger target speed of 5-5 in the puchasz”.

yesterday, only the 2-33 was being flown, so we did not have to pass the target speed or the type of aircraft along to the winch.

it’s funny: as i write this, i feel a bit of the anticipation i was feeling as we prepared for this flight. also, i know what would happen in about 10 seconds after bud said, “the pattern is clear.”

“when i tell you,” alasdar said, “radio, 'winch: take up slack' and when we begin to move say: 'go. go. go.'”

“roger that.”

“wing and tail.”, was alasdar’s command and bud lifted the right wing to level us and somebody went to the rear of the aircraft to give us a push that i can only think of as being redundant with roman’s powerful winch.

alsadar gave me the word and i said: “winch: take up slack.”

the visibility of the puchasz is much better than the 2-33 and i could see more of the winch cable on this flight and watched it being reeled in until it was tight and with a slightly unstable voice i said: “go. go. go.”

the vertical profile of the entire flight from my gps

once again, we were off like being shot out of a cannon and began lifting off the runway even faster than before. as soon as were off the ground and high enough to not drag the tail, alasdar rotated up and we were climbing for the heavens and firmly planted into our seats.

the first speed i announced was… maybe a second after going airborne, “fifty.” and i remembered that i was supposed to say it as “five-zero” and made the correction when i said, “5-5… 5-8… 5-5… 5-2… 4-8… 5-2.”

i knew we were only about halfway down the runway when a big bang startled me and alasdar suddenly put us into a controlled dive.

the cable at the ring that attaches to the release on the glider broke and we only had about 900 feet of elevation off the deck. not only can i claim that i am an international soarer, i can also claim a cable break. man, i'm gettin' it all!

the vert. profile of the first few seconds of the flight
notice how steep the graph is on the far left. that will give you an indication of how steep the launch is.
the drop following the initial climb is where alasdar put us into a dive when the cable broke.

the dive alasdar put us in was, of course, to give us some airspeed so we could make it back to the runway as we would surely have to land with such little altitude, which was confirmed by my competent pilot sitting behind me.

looking north from near the airport

it was not long, however, before alasdar said, “i think we can make it to the ridge after all.” and just as sure as bob’s your uncle, we soon gained enough altitude that we were as high above the airport as anyone in the little puchasz was able to reach on that day.

smiles on my and alasdar's faces show
we're enjoying every second

the winch crew confirmed that the weak link on the end of the cable had, indeed, snapped. alasdar had me radio back that we would retain the metal links that were formerly attached to the cable. they cost $42 a piece!

a close-up of my gps track log shows how many turns we made to stay in the lift

again, alasdar circled and made endless figure eights above the ridge that extends into mexico. we were even joined by roman, who had previously launched in the single-place junior and was looking for lift north of the airport (somebody said that roman could tell when a cow farts and get lift off of its gas) and steve, the winch clinic instructor, who was flying the 2-33. having three aircraft in such close proximity was a little unnerving to myself, but i gained much confidence from alasdar as he seemed to enjoy the company. visually, it was quite exciting to see the other planes so close to us.

roman flying in the little junior on our 9:00

once (or maybe 9 times) again we did what the hawks do: making tight aerial pirouettes and it seemed inconceivable that we could stay aloft, yet i am here to tell about it. one series of those turns was so fast and tight that i got a bit dizzy for a moment and had to look up and keep focusing on other things to stave off the dizziness, which quickly subsided.

to the right: mexico

before heading back to the airport, alasdar performed another wingover and one more maneuver that pinned me to the seat as firmly as any roller coast has. i truly don’t remember if he called it by name, but alasdar said we were probably around 3 g’s. that was very cool!

notice some of the speeds in the gray figures on the left and the sharp changes in the vert. profile on the right.
da's what i'm ta'kin' 'bout!

he also did some swooping turns as we descended to the airport that were quite fun and graceful as we bled-off speed and altitude to make an even smoother landing than the previous day even though our speed was certainly faster this time; we were able to coast almost all the way to the apron and the puchesz tie downs before one of the wings dropped and we stopped moving.

with that we said goodbye to our new friends at the jacumba airport and headed over to the nearby jacumba library to get a chance to download email, which we had not been able to do since we left el centro on friday. actually, fred checked email. i went to geocaching.com because one of the agcsc members told me that there was a cache near the airport. as it turned out, there are several caches right outside the airport. one looked as though it was at the front gate, but i saw that there was one about 500 feet away that was placed by a past rally team, jahoadi and john, who lived for a while in fallon when john was stationed at nas, fallon. so, i had to stop and find that one before we left. i did.

a pall, however, was cast over our moods when fred learned that his sister, susan, who had been in the hospital for quite some time was not getting better. we returned to the ranch for showers before heading out to get some dinner, but the light-hearted atmosphere of the past few days was now a memory.

to be continued…

run for the border and back: part four


leaving nevada used to mean: leaving casinos behind.

not anymore.

our breakfast this morning and the previous two were at the golden acorn casino on the campo indian reservation. it had the look and feel of a reno casino, but they need better smoke eaters as it had the smell of a gardnerville (sharky’s) casino. the café, however, was smoke-free and the food was acceptable.

after breakfast we were back on interstate 8 and heading toward san diego through rocky terrain, mountains, cacti and yucca until we got closer to the coast when trees were suddenly green and the coastal fog kept us from seeing the pacific ocean.

we braved our way through the labyrinth of san diego’s freeways to palomar airport road, where i used to get off the freeway to go to carlsbad raceway.

nothing looked familiar!

eventually, we made a left on melrose and drove across a ravine that looked slightly familiar. soon after, we passed a sign that read, “carlsbad raceway business park”. i’m pretty sure melrose crosses the ravine where the dragstrip shutdown area would have been. i could also make out what may have been sections of the once famous motocross track.

cue queen: “another one bi…” never mind: i hate that song.

we stopped by the gated community where we would spend the next two night to get our gate pass, dropped off our luggage and drove to the hospital so fred could check in on his sister.

after we left the hospital, we stopped off at ralph’s (haven’t been in a ralph’s in… forever, it seems) to buy some groceries as fred’s nieces and nephew would soon be arriving to join us.

these embracing birds of paradise were next to the walkway leading the the front door of the hospital

when we returned to the truck, fred made a couple of calls while standing in the lot and i took a few minutes to find the elusive classical music station we had not been able to find since we were close enough to bring-in a los angeles or san diego radio station. while scanning, i heard a voice that i knew would either be a classical announcer or npr elitist. just as i determined it was the latter, i pushed the scan button as i heard the announcer say “… classic albums ‘don’t crush that dwarf, hand me the pliers’ and ‘i think we’re…’”. i quickly pushed the back button to listen to the announcer talk about an interview she did with peter bergman and then played the interview. it wasn’t until the end of the feature that i realized that peter had died, on friday, march 9, due to complication of leukemia.

more sadness filled the truck that emitted from both our hearts for different reasons and into the surrounding area.

earlier, as i was driving the truck through the maze of san diego freeway interchanges, my old friend, gary peterson, called me on my cell. yes, i was using my phone in the car. no, i was not hands-free. gary and i arranged to get together over the next day or two, so i gave him a call when we got back to the gated community house and we would go to dinner while fred and his nieces and nephew, who had recently arrived, went to the hospital.

gary met me at the gate where he schmoozed the gatekeeper/guard enough that he was allowed to park inside the property. the following day, fred and i tried to enter that same gate with our gate pass and were forbidden entry.

gary drove us to a place called the elephant bar where we grabbed a table with very heavy chairs that, literally, had to weigh well over 50 pounds; i could barely move mine.

after placing our order with the charming and quite beautiful waitress, i stepped outside into the night air that the locals were calling cold and i was calling comfortable to call fred to let him know where i had hidden the house key. it was during this call that fred told me his sister, susan, had passed through the veil.

over the next 3 hours, gary and i ate and talked and caught up on times, but my heart was broken for fred and his family.

when we returned to the gated community, the same gatekeeper/guard was still on duty and permitted gary to drive me all the way to the house to drop me off. i guess he looked more trustworthy than fred or i, or maybe his mercedes was more impressive than fred’s gmc truck.


i tried to call jim lattin to see if he or rick would be around the museum so we could come by and take a walkthrough, but it appears i have the wrong number. so, we drove to the museum in the early afternoon to see if we could get lucky. we did not: the gate was locked and i could not raise anyone on the intercom. i had arranged to meet with both gary and alasdar to take them through the museum to check out jim’s collection of antique race cars, but: timing is everything.

upon returning to the gated community after a very unsatisfactory vietnamese lunch (fred had phở and i had grilled pork with cold noodles), i made reservations to fly back to reno on the following day.


on the way to the airport, i noticed a bell/boeing v-22 osprey in-flight heading out toward the ocean. in the minute or two that we watched, the pilot kept the rotors in a partial- (mostly-) horizontal position and never did rotate them vertically for forward flight even though it was being flown forward. not that i know much of anything about the flight characteristics of the v-22, but it was my first sighting of the vtol aircraft.

since i had left carson city not expecting to be flying back, i was not very well prepared for air travel. in fact, fred will be bringing my backpack back with him when he and his daughter return after susan’s memorial. i did check my primary luggage, but had to bring my carry-on bag and laptop case on-board with me.

i really used to love air travel.

not anymore!

between security, being treated like cattle and so many seats installed into the fuselage, i’m well over it being fun. i did, however, keep my sense of humor as security sent me through the body scanner and swabbed my arm brace and hands for explosives; i think because the swabber seemed like a nice guy and kept me at a place where i could keep an eye on my laptop.

my only regret in choosing the seat i did on the flight from san diego to phoenix was that i picked the left side of the plane and not the right because we flew right over jacumba and the little airport where just a few days earlier i was taking my first flights in a glider. i easily picked out the golden acorn casino and the long row of inefficient yet heartwarming (at least to liberals that don’t mind spending tax dollars on boondoggles) windmills that topped the ridge to the east of the casino, but the interstate made a turn toward the south and it was out of sight until we passed jacumba.

one of the cool things about sitting on the left side of the plane was passing near an automaker’s proving grounds. i’ve done a little research and found that gm used to have one in mesa, arizona, but a developer has bought it and it looks like what used to be the big circle track is now no longer there. ford and volkswagen also have proving grounds in the general area, but i’ve not yet found pics that look exactly like what i saw.

what i saw was a huge – perhaps 10 mile – circle track that appeared to be banked, another huge – perhaps 10 mile – banked oval track with what looked like 5 mile straightaways, and a very narrow oval track with what looked like over 5 miles of straightaways and very tight turns at both ends. there were also several other smaller test tracks within the area of the big 3 tracks. we also flew over phoenix international raceway, which was quite diminutive compared to the test facility tracks.

i’m sure you’ve now figured out that since i was flying into phoenix that i must have been on u.s. airways. i swore i would never fly that airline ever again, but this was a special circumstance. besides having the worst on-time record, they use the name “u.s.” and fly european-made airbuses, of which they are proud to own more than any other airline, so stated in their tucked-into-the-seatback-in-front-of-you magazine.

we actually arrived in phoenix on-time and even the flight crew and attendants seemed surprised about that. getting to phoenix on-time was of great concern to me, as my layover there was only 45 minutes. if i’d been flying a real airline, i would have been quite comfortable with ¾ of an hour between flights, but the last time i flew into phoenix on u.s. airworst, i had to spend the night there.

when we were descending to reno and it was apparent that we would also arrive there on time, and with the lack of turbulence usually associated with reno-landings, especially with the weather up here right now, i thought we were coming into the wrong place.

it was, indeed, reno and jeanne arrived in the cell phone lot about the time my bag was entering the baggage terminal.

from the airport, we drove over to sparks for pizza at grimaldi’s, which was the perfect ending to a trip of very mixed emotions.