Trip to Bakersfield

At Easter in 2002 the planets lined up or something and I finally got the opportunity to actually GO somewhere in a plane. The plan was my wife and son were going to see her parents in Atascadero early in the week while I was still working. On Saturday I'd fly down to Bakersfield and they'd drive over from Atascadero and we'd spend the weekend with my parents. Then my son and I would fly back home Sunday afternoon while she drove.

Flying to Bakersfield from Sacramento isn't a big challenge - I mean, there's no Class B Airspace (like LAX or SFO) or Military Operations Areas or anything to have to deal with, you just have to not get lost. :-) I was really looking forward to it. I figured on about 2 hours each way, give or take 10 minutes. 7500 feet on the way, 6500 on the way back. I plotted the course from VOR to VOR (radio navigational aids) and had the towns and freeways I'd be over all mapped out, just like you're supposed to. I was set. :-)

I took off the morning of March 30, 2002, from Sacramento Executive airport, probably grinning like an idiot, but I didn't care. I was gonna fly down the state! I took off and started climbing, and made the only relatively big turn in my course - around Lodi. They do parachute jumping there, and even though they are on the radio warning everyone and their cousin while they're doing it, I am very careful around the area. Nobody was jumping that day, but I went wide enough around that I was sure I wouldn't be in the way anyway. I will never understand the desire to get out of a non-disfunctional airplane that's not parked, but I digress....

I flew on towards my first checkpoint, climbing to 7500 feet, and loving it. I was also watching outside for airports, roads, towns, rivers, etc, partly because you're supposed to, and partly cuz IT'S WAY COOL! I was almost a mile and a half up watching the world underneath me. All of the VORs, towns, railroads, freeways, and everything were right where they were supposed to be, and I made it to Bakersfield without a hitch.

When I got there and radioed the tower at Meadow's Field, they told me to contact Bakersfield Approach (ATC) for sequencing. That was a little odd, I'd never had to do that before, but they're a little busier airport than most I've been to. Maybe than any other I'd been to. Anyway, I did, and they passed me right back to the tower. He told me to get into a right pattern for runway 30R, then said "Oh, you know, nobody's here and there's no wind, go ahead and land on 12L. Long landing approved, so you don't have to taxi forever." 12L is the same runway as 30R, but from the other end. Cool! I floated gently down over the runway and landed still far enough up that I had to taxi for a while.

It cost $5 to park there overnight. Can you believe it? ;-)

I took my Dad up later that day for about half an hour. We would have stayed up longer, but I was getting a little tired of being in the plane. And their house is in the Class D airspace for Meadow's Field, so we didn't go fly over it. Probably could have, but I wasn't really comfortable enough yet with ATC and that kind of airspace to just to mess around in it. IF they had let me. So I didn't ask.

The next day, Chase (my son) and I took off to head back up here. He sat there playing with the maps and being co-pilot. He was fine the whole trip, until we started descending for landing at Sac Exec. I must have come down a little fast and his ears got plugged. He was trying to tell me that his ears hurt, but I thought he was just making noise and I told him to be quiet. His ears popped a minute later and he was fine, but to this day I feel guilty about that. He was fine with it, and his ears were fine, it was just one of those things I should have handled differently. Welcome to parenthood. :-\

Anyway, the entire flight down and back AND with my dad was five and a half hours. 2 hours 15 minutes down, and 2.5 hours back due to a headwind. It's nice to trim that trip down to about half, but it certainly wasn't cost effective. :-) I can't wait for the next one!

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