Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Part Two: Two Men, a Plane, and the Legend of Harvey

First Stop: Dalhart, TX
Steven and I climbed out of Prescott, AZ at the official flight plan time of "ZeroDarkThirty", and pointed the nose of the tiny Piper toward Northern Texas. As I said before, I love the desert with all of my heart and there was something amazing about seeing the sun come up over it from 3,000 feet. It was the perfect combination of friends, desert, and planes. 

One of my main duties as "domestic relief pilot" was handing up beverages and snacks, as well as holding the GPS. Yeah, I said it, holding the GPS. The GPS was an older model and the bracket had long surpassed its useful service life. It spent some time on the floor, as Steve's stick and rudder flying is pretty spot-on. Within fifty miles of Dalhart I started to notice what I thought were shrubs, or maybe even rocks. But the funny thing is, they were moving! Was I going crazy? If so, it was far too early in the trip for that to happen. After a brief discussion, it turns out that they were cattle. Now here in Maine, 100 cows would be a lot of cows. Like a wicked lot. There were literally thousands here!

 As we skimmed along and I suddenly began to question Steve's breakfast choices. I looked down and we were above an enormous stock yard. So, it wasn't Steve after all. You can smell cow dung from 2500 feet at 130 knots. Crazy right? 

The next thing you know, we were looking at the chart and Steve was doing his pilot stuff and setting up for the approach into Dalhart. Enter the next new phenomenon: Crop dusters. Except, don't call it that out there. It's an air tractor. Uh, huh.  So, we hit the pattern behind the friendly neighborhood air tractor and made a nice straight in approach. Shutting down in front of the fuel pumps, Steve gave the line man the "filler' up", and we then headed inside. 

There wasn't much to see in the little office at the Dalhart airport. They had an airplane for sale, some stale donuts, and a soda machine. After having a couple donuts and a soda, we strolled around. It was clearly a WW2 training base, as evidenced by some of the old buildings, but that is about all I figured out. My research on it was a little ambiguous, but it kinda confirms that piece at least. There is also a prison there. We decided not to visit. 

We made one last trip to the rest room. There must have been a problem with people peeing on the floor, as we saw a neat poster above the facilities. I have posted it here for your enjoyment. Steve paid the bill, we took one last stretch, and strapped the airplane back on. 

Departing Dalhart was a little tricky. We were once again competing with the air tractor for airspace. I have to say, I really do appreciate the skill it takes to fly one of those beasts. Fact number one, they're huge. Fact number two, they're powerful, and fact number three, you need some excellent skill to whip that thing around the sky. I think my son is more gentle with his toys than they are with those planes. Excuse me, air tractors. 

                                                          Navion for sale in Dalhart
                                                        The infamous restroom sign. 

Next Stop: Nevada, MO
It was a beautiful day, visibility was clear and unlimited, and winds aloft were light. We clunked along taking int the country side, listening to the rest of the aviation world chatter about their business. Then came Nevada, MO. Nevada is a neat little place. Just don't say it like you think it's pronounced. It's actually pronounced Nah-vay-duh. Or so they'd have you believe. For those of you who know me, I pronounced it Ne-vah-da, like the state, just to be difficult. Shocking, huh? 

We managed to borrow the airport car to go get something to eat. After beating feet across the flat lands in the wrong direction for fifteen minutes, we finally got our asses turned around and headed toward town. It was pretty much like any other town, except, kinda southern. We attempted to go to a Chinese buffet, but it was closed. We were probably better off. Instead, we ended up at Carl's Junior. Not much better. But the price was right for two hungry flyers on the budget. As Steve would tell you , it was a "helluva deal". 

We headed back to the airport after our high end meal. In hindsight, it's a good idea we kept a low profile. When I looked the place up on line to see just how "southern" they were, the answer was "very". It seems my northern forefathers decided to burn the place to the ground during the civil war, and it used to be named Hog Eye. Good thing I didn't mention I was from the "deep north" I suppose. 

We headed back to the airport, paid the fuel man, and headed off into the afternoon sun. 

Next stop: Sydney OH to see Harvey. 
To be Continued. 

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