With an Ironman race and a first birthday to attend, it was time to load up our 'magic carpet' for a couple of weeks of personal air travel around the West Coast. In mid-July, we were getting into a cycle of morning low clouds from the marine layer, with clearing expected most afternoons. Our first goal was to fly from Seattle to San Francisco, in time to attend Theresa's first half-Ironman competition at the Vineman 70.3 Ironman in Sonoma County, CA. We pre-packed on Tuesday, and after work on Wednesday, Ma and I loaded up 3DC for an afternoon hop to a new destination, Medford, OR.
Flight Day #1, Leg #1 – Renton, WA (KRNT) to Medford, OR (KMFR)
The morning low clouds lingered until 2:00PM, but the forecast was good, with clear conditions expected south of Olympia. We loaded up our Warrior and took off from Renton into scattering cumulus, flying quickly into the promised clear air to the south. From Renton we headed to Thun Field (KPLU), and then flew a long leg direct to Scappoose, OR (KSPB), climbing into some fairly stiff headwinds. After sampling the winds at 7500 ft, we decided to cruise at 5,500 ft for more favorable winds. The Cascade peaks of Mt Rainier, St Helens, Adams, Hood, Jefferson and the Three Sisters were all impressive, still with snow in their higher portions. We continued west of Portland to Salem (KSLE), Eugene (KEUG), then direct to Medford over the rising hills. Late afternoon thermals were still booming as we descended into the Medford area, and Medford tower easily accommodated a non-standard right pattern entry for landing on the long runway 32. Medford ground provided progressive taxi to our ground marshaller at Million Air, where we loaded our bags into the luxury courtesy van and proceeded to a great dinner and rest at the Rogue Regency Inn, escaping the 100-degree evening heat. 3.4 hours for the leg due to the strong headwinds.
Flight Day #2, Leg #2 – Medford, OR to Concord, CA (KCCR)
After a great breakfast at the Rogue Regency Inn, Ma and I shuttled back to 3DC, filled up with Avgas from the self-serve, and climbed out from Medford in the clear but rapidly warming air. We had two southerly options - the coastal route or the inland/I-5 corridor. The coastal marine layer that had affected us in Seattle was to be a dominant feature along the west coast for our entire trip, so we decided to climb south over Ashland, OR (S03), continuing on the inland route into California through the Siskiyou Mountains. The strong headwinds from day 1 were still present, so we alternated between 5,500 and 7,500 ft to catch the best conditions. The mountain views through the Siskiyous and around Mt Shasta are always impressive, and our route near the Castle Craggs provided more outstanding scenery. We cruised over Lake Shasta, then down the Sacramento Valley, passing Redding and Red Bluff, keeping track of the few passing aircraft with flight following from Seattle and Oakland Centers. We could see the low clouds over the Pacific as we began our descent with Travis Approach, but clear conditions prevailed at Concord. The Concord winds swirled a bunch on our approach, changing us from a straight in from the north to a downwind entry to runway 32R, with a nice crosswind greeting us on touchdown. Construction on our previous visit to Concord was complete, so we had easy taxiing to Sterling Aviation for our five days of tie down. 3.2 hours for the flight, again with the strong headwinds.
Theresa hosted us for a very enjoyable six days in the Bay area, including great seafood at the Pacific Cafe for my birthday dinner and an introduction to Brian. On Sunday, Theresa competed in the Vineman 7.3 Ironman competition in Windsor, CA, where she placed extremely well for her first half-Ironman, smoking the swim and bike portions. Dining at Lococo's in Santa Rosa and Kin in Windsor, wine tasting in Sonoma County, receiving a great bottle of Port for Father's Day, plus hiking in Theresa's chilly San Francisco neighborhood hills rounded out an excellent visit.
Flight Day #3, Leg #3 – Concord, CA to San Luis Obispo, CA (KSBP)
The Wednesday morning weather started with a cool light mist in San Francisco, with cloudy conditions even over the normally clear area around Concord. Theresa said goodbye at the Concord airport, where we adjusted our planned route though the Bay area to detour east into the clear San Joaquin Valley. Flying east initially out of Concord took us quickly out of the marginal VFR into the crystal clear valley air, where we headed southbound, with no headwinds for a change. After cruising east of Livermore, climbing to 8500 ft, and heading down the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley, we crossed over the hills into the Salinas Valley, noting that the low marine layer was still solid from the Bay area south past Monterey and Salinas. We made good speed past the Mesa Del Rey airport (KKIC) in King City and continued past our worst-case destination of Paso Robles (KPRB), since San Luis Obispo's low clouds had burnt off. We crossed the hills surrounding San Luis Obispo for a convenient right downwind and smooth landing on runway 29, fueling immediately at the self-serve in the gorgeous mid-70's weather. Our last visit to San Luis Obispo in 2010 was short due to extensive taxiway construction, but on this visit we were able to taxi directly to the Spirit of San Luis airport restaurant and enjoy delicious local Red Snapper for lunch. 2.2 hours for the leg.
Flight Day #3, Leg #4 – San Luis Obispo, CA to Long Beach, CA (KLGB)
After fuel and a great lunch, Ma and I launched southbound. We overflew our previous 2010 So Cal routing over Santa Maria (KSMX), then turned southeast near Santa Barbara (KSBA) to Camarillo (KCMA) to Santa Monica (KSMO). From Santa Monica, we easily crossed over LAX at 3500 ft using the Special Flight Rules corridor. Long Beach tower cleared us to Signal Hill for a left downwind to runway 25L. We again had free transient parking, this time at California Flight Center, where David welcomed us to southern California! 1.9 hours for this last leg, 10.7 hours since takeoff at Renton.
David and Katie hosted us for a fun six days in Long Beach with Alex and Nathaniel, where we got to celebrate Nathaniel's first birthday party. David and Katie also treated us to a great birthday dinner at Christakis, and we spent awesome play time, reading time and pool hours with both grandsons. Grandkids are great!
Flight Day #4 - Long Beach local - Leg #5
On Friday, David, Alexander and I headed to the Long Beach airport for some local flying in 3DC. It was fun as Alex helped with the pre-flight, and was proud as he removed the pitot cover underneath the wing - perfect height! Although the marine layer had cleared directly overhead Long Beach, the coastal beaches were only marginally clear, but we launched anyway to give Alexander some time in the air again. Alex was awesome, having no problems with his headset, picking out the Queen Mary right away as we circled around her, and then enjoying his turn controlling the yoke as we cruised down the coastline past Seal Beach. Visibility deteriorated as we cruised further south, so we turned north for a second beach run and Queen Mary flyby. As we passed Signal Hill to enter the pattern for runway 25 at Long Beach, I was able to pick out Katie at home in her backyard! 0.8 hours for the local hop.
Flight Day #5, Leg #6 – Long Beach to San Luis Obispo
The six days in Long Beach went too fast, but it was time to head back to Seattle. Saturday had provided overcast skies most of the day, including light sprinkles during Nathaniel's birthday celebration. On Sunday morning, the marine layer was stubbornly hanging on, so we delayed saying our goodbyes, finally heading to LGB at 11:00. Ma and I loaded 3DC, and enjoyed lunch at La Lune Palace at the airport while waiting for VFR conditions. Finally around 2:00 the low ceiling scattered, but our planned LAX/coastal route was still socked in. After getting some valuable tips from a local flight instructor, we launched into very hazy skies and headed northeast initially, threading through the LA airspace toward the Rose Bowl, then west near Burbank (KBUR), then finally northbound, passing near Camarillo and Santa Barbara, still enveloped by the marine layer. A high overcast and hazy conditions prevailed throughout the area, finally breaking into clearing skies only as we began our descent past Santa Maria for a convenient straight-in to San Luis runway 29, following a Piper that had passed us in the descent. 1.8 hours for the leg.
Flight Day #5, Leg #7 – San Luis Obispo to Santa Rosa
Our stop in San Luis Obispo was short, since all we needed was a quick top off at the self-serve. We launched at 4:31, climbing over the local hills toward Paso Robles into finally clear afternoon skies. We cruised past the MOAs north of Paso Robles, and were able to help Oakland Center by acting as a radio relay for a passing low aircraft that had comm problems. We flew past Salinas, and then detoured slightly west over the Pacific after a request from Oakland Center to avoid parachute jumping around Watsonville (KWVI). NORCAL approach was very accommodating, only requesting that we stay west of the Woodside VOR and the San Francisco (KSFO) airport as we cruised north through the Class Bravo airspace. As we passed just west of SFO, we heard NORCAL approach query an Air France Airbus, asking why he had just gone around at SFO, and we saw the Airbus passing just below us. The Air France crew, still obviously jittery due to the recent Asiana 777 crash on runway 28, stated "they weren't stabilized on the approach", so they wisely went around. The Golden Gate Bridge and most of San Francisco were in the clouds, but were able to see the tall Sutro tower, located close to Theresa's new neighborhood, poking through the clouds. Passing over Sausalito, the clouds retreated, providing for a glorious late afternoon descent into a surprisingly active traffic pattern for landing on Santa Rosa's runway 14. The Kaiser Air Jet Center had a follow-me truck lead us to the ramp, we bedded down 3DC for the evening, and arranged a shuttle to the Santa Rosa Hilton Garden Inn for our overnight stay. 2.4 hours for the leg.
Flight Day #6, Leg #8 – Santa Rosa to Eugene, OR
We awoke to a glorious sunny Monday morning in Santa Rosa, with the forecast marine layer staying just along the coast. Due to the coastal clouds, we decided to jump to the I-5 corridor for our flight north. We climbed northeast-bound, jumping into the Sacramento valley, passing Red Bluff, Redding, and Mt Shasta. Into Oregon, we flew over Ashland, Medford, then over Roseburg as we descended for a straight-in approach with strong low-level headwinds to Eugene's runway 34R for refueling. 3.3 hours for the leg.
Flight Day #6, Leg #9 – Eugene to Renton
After lunch at the Wings Cafe in the airport terminal, we had to find local airport ramp personnel to get us back through the gate to 3DC. He also provided procedures for future visits. We cranked up and were airborne into the warm, breezy skies at 3:03 PM. It was a glorious day again with great visibility, and cool temperatures at our 8500 ft cruising altitude. We cruised smoothly over Salem, Hillsboro and Scappoose, then into Washington with a long leg to Thun Field. We overflew Mossyrock, viewing the large cross on the hill overlooking town that we had hiked to earlier in the year. The Puget Sound still had hazy remnants from the morning marine layer, but we had clear weather for a straight-in to our home field on runway 34. We flew 2.4 hours for the last leg, giving us an enjoyable 21.4 flying hours total on our wonderful 'magic carpet' ride to family all around the west coast!