Springfield, Illinois to Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sunday, August 23

Through the Desert

Through the Desert


Part of the lost trip report.

Lincoln Stood Here, But Taller

Lincoln Stood Here, But Taller

Nell is great at finding us something interesting where we are. Bob and I flew in and out of Springfield, Illinois and, other than debating a visit to the Lincoln museum, saw nothing but the Outback Steakhouse. I know, typical American tourism. Terrible. But, fortunately, the boys and I have Nell. After breakfast we wandered outside, crossed one long parking lot and then we were traipsing about the capital of Illinois. Somehow there was a lot of information just on the plaques and various tour spot points. We learned how Illinois was (and still is) a farming state, that the revenue is really from the agriculture and animal husbandry across the state. We learned about the capital and it’s dome, which we peered up into. It was a little nippy, since it was early morning, but so clear and beautiful.

We finally called it a morning and headed back to the hotel. Collecting our bags we packed the beat up crew car and headed back to the airport. There seemed to be some sort of event at Lincoln’s graveside, but we were already booking toward the airport. We took off into a crisp, clear morning over cornfields, heading west.

Happy to be Aloft

Happy to be Aloft

Thunderstorms were already blocking a bit of our direct western route, so we dropped a little south. We flew over some wonderful lake country by the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Some of them were crammed with houses, docks, and little jet skis buzzing about. The parts (probably part of the park) left untouched looked so peaceful while the developed parts looked as relaxing as downtown Manhattan. We are a mysterious culture. “I’ve got to get away from it all. Over where those people are getting away from it all.”

We landed in Tulsa, at one of their smaller airports. As we were directed under the Class C airspace around their big airport we flew over some glass recycling center, or something similarly industrial, with an other-worldly azure glitter pile. It was getting hotter as we descended and between the sweat-in-the-eyes, the hunger, the tension from not knowing when we would be allowed to fly directly toward out little airport, the pile of glass might have been a hallucination.

It was hot at Richard Lloyd Jones airport. The boys found the cold water and popcorn in the air conditioning in short order, while Nell negotiated for a BBQ lunch. Sunday meant all the good places were closed, and the crew cards had both been taken by charter crews. The FBO was nice and dropped us off at a chain BBQ place. It was an okay lunch, but we vowed to have no more fried food for the trip. That was enough to last us.

Lakes in Missouri or Okalahoma

Lakes in Missouri or Okalahoma

We took off, turning directly, but not disastrously, toward the Oral Roberts Prayer Tower at his university. I called my friend Dean when we were wandering the strip mall and said, “I’m in Tulsa!” He’s from Oklahoma. He said, “I’m sorry.” Apparently that’s not really the best the state has to offer. I could tell, having flown in over some of the lake country, and I know that a lot of Texas comes up into Oklahoma for the weekend. So the strip mall and chain restaurants and lack of ice cream were not really representative.

We flew on into north Texas.

We hoped to land at Santa Fe for the night. We hadn’t been there, Nell’s sister Julie liked it, and we knew the flight from the Albuquerque area to home was not a difficult one. Plugging it into the G1000, our fuel stop looked to be Hutchinson County airport in Borger, Texas.

Sometimes you see great places like Marfa, Texas, where you realize that without taking a trip in a little plane like we were, you wouldn’t get to see them. And it would be a real loss. Other times, you land in Borger. This is a town that was created by the refinery, and with the death of the refinery (for whatever reason, it sounded like it was connected to Enron somehow), the town has been dropped into a hole, thrown back through time to the Great Depression. I had to drive to get more AA batteries, and went past houses which had already claimed generations living in poverty and were totally prepared to do it for another few generations. Nothing grew here, nothing was made, it was all people waiting for their unemployment check, their welfare check, their social security or disability check. Limping forward through each day. The fellow who pumped our plane full of fuel said that the Iraq war was a real boon for the town since at least it gave a few younger guys the chance to get out. Brutal landscape and bleak future. We took off in midday Texas heat, turning happily to the west.

(You can actually look Borger, Texas up on Google maps and use their street view feature to drive around.)

The weather I saw on the laptop before we left Borger looked clear. But I look again when I get to cruising altitude. We hoped to land in Santa Fe because that was a new place and we’d gotten stuck in Albuquerque enough. Twenty minutes after takeoff I showed Nell the huge thunderstorm line sweeping toward Albuquerque from the south. It looked like we would be a lot better off landing at Roswell. That looked interesting, too, with all sorts of UFO-related things to do in a tiny desert town.

We cruised on toward a point where we have to go north or south. South would take us to Roswell. Finally we decided to press on toward Albuquerque, but we would land at Tucumcari. We would need the FBO to be open, though, since the airport was out of town a ways. As we closed in, and watched the storm pounding Albuquerque, we called down to the airport and FBO frequencies. There was no answer. It was evening. We talked with the ABQ approach controllers. They said the storm was blowing out of the basin, toward Santa Fe. So we plotted our course to ABQ, steering carefully around the trailing pieces of precipitation. Finally, the weather at ABQ reported clear and, in failing light, we descended toward the field, coming in over the ridge. Nell said the mountains made her a little nervous and she wanted to stay higher, so I relayed that to the controller. He gave us a nice long downwind for the descent and we came in behind a Long EZ on a five mile final.

I was bushed. A van took us to a hotel from the FBO. Rudy and Nell went out and found grilled chicken for me and something that Dexter found passable. I collapsed into a deep sleep.

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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