Liz and Lola's Birthday Trip

I told two of my friends, Liz and Lola, that I would take them flying for their birthdays. Gee, too bad for me, I HAD to go flying, huh? :-) Well, time kept passing and we kept not going, so one day I got the bright idea to take them both at once and go for longer than an hour. I got that bright idea right after my wife said "Why don't you take them both and go for longer than an hour?" Or something like that. :-) In any case, it was a good idea, and they both liked it, too.

We made plans to go one day in the plane at Sac Exec and tool around, maybe go to Napa for lunch. But that day it rained, or was foggy, or some weather related "You Ain't Flying Today" thing. So we rescheduled it. By the time we could all go again, the plane had moved from Sac Exec to Mather Field. No biggie, they have a cool 2 mile long runway anyway. We met there on the morning of December 7, 2002.

The weather was fine... in Sacramento. It was flyable in Napa, but the visibility made it not worth going, we wouldn't have been able to see much. So we just flew around Sacramento and Folsom. They flipped a coin to see who would sit in front first, and Lola won. The plan was to fly around for a while, 30-45 minutes, land in Cameron Park for lunch, switch seats, tool around for another while, then go back. Great plan, huh?

We took off and flew towards Rancho Murieta airport, where we did a touch and go. Mostly because every time I go up I make sure to do at least three landings, so my currency is good from that day. :-) You gotta do three every 60 days... anyway, it's a nice airport and has nice scenery around it.

Then we headed North to Folsom, the site of our yearly Renaissance fair. And my house, but whatever. I prefer flying there rather than over Sacramento proper because that area tends to be busy, and Sacramento International is over there and that airspace can get crowded, too. I do it sometimes, but when we're joyriding and just having fun, I'd rather go where I don't have to concentrate on the radio constantly and could actually talk to my passengers.

We flew around Folsom and the surrounding area towards Cameron Park. The runway at Cameron Park is in the middle of the foothills and dips in the middle. Landing there is fun, you come over a low mountain on final and dive down toward the landing area. It's not hard, or dangerous, but I wonder about the people living on that mountain... We landed and had a nice lunch, and walked back over to the airport, where thankfully the lock on the gate worked like it was supposed to and we got back to the plane. Liz got in front and off we went. Taking off from that airport isn't as interesting as landing, we made it out fine.

I planned at that point to go back to Rancho Murieta, do another touch and go (four landings doesn't hurt) and head out towards Franklin on the other side of town. Maybe even Lodi, wherever. But the farther southwest we went, the hazier it got. I mean really hazy. I was starting to be concerned about getting back. At that point, I realized that if I was starting to be concerned, it was time to do something. Waiting until you're really concerned is usually too late. So I told Liz that she was gonna get shorted in the front seat, cuz visibility was getting too bad to stay up. She, understandably, didn't argue with that.

We headed over towards Mather to land and call it a day... but I couldn't see it. I could see enough to know more or less where I was, but I couldn't see the airfield. Which is huge, it used to be an Air Force Base, you can see it from Utah... I could see Sunrise Blvd. and a particular water tower there that I knew was off the end of the runway, so I called the tower and told him about where I was and that I couldn't see the airport from there. He said visibility was about 3.5 miles (which means another half mile less and I wasn't legally supposed to fly in it), and to keep going the way I was going and I should see the runway in a minute or two. I did keep going, and I did see the end of the runway. We came in and landed, and when we got within a couple hundred feet of the ground it was clear as a bell. Out, not up. We put the plane up and I promised Liz I'd take her back up again to make up for the short half of the flight. She said she didn't mind, she had fun in the back, too. Then it occured to me... her husband wanted to go, too, didn't he? Hmmm. Guess the two of them will have to be my next flight... :-)

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