On November 27, Thanksgiving morning 2008, Dad and I woke up early and drove to the Airport in Warwick, NY. We pulled the plane out of the hanger where it was stored overnight to keep the frost off. Just before sunrise we started our journey west. The plan was to try and make to it Durango in two days, flying a southern route through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, through Texas and skirting New Mexico while avoiding the highest mountains as we cross into Southern Colorado.
On the first day we briefly landed in Scott County Tennessee to refuel and then stopped for the night in Kennett Missouri. Kennett MO is a small agricultural town that looks like it has barely changed since 1950's. We quickly realized that most business and restaurants are closed on Thanksgiving in a small town like Kennett so we were relieved when we came across an Pizza Hut with a glowing "OPEN" sign in the window. It was not much of a Thanksgiving dinner, but after nine hours in the small Cessna 182, it was nice to be on the ground for a while.
The next morning we awake before dawn to find the local Micky D's totally packed. The sun had yet to reveal itself, but the day clearly starts early for the local farmers. At dawn we flew over Arkansas and into Oklahoma stopping again in the pan handle of Texas to avoid some bad weather, and to monitor a fuel consumption gauge that was in explicitly creeping up. The town of Perryton is in the north east corner of the Pan Handle. The terrain is absolutely flat. They had had a wet fall so the vast farm fields were punctuated buy lake size puddles. The locals at the airport took great care of us, found us a hotel next to the steak house, and chaperoned us to and from the airport. We really appreciated the small town hospitality. We learned while ordering dinner at the steak house that Perryton is in a dry county, so my beer belly shrank that night.
After waiting for the night frost to burn off the plane we took off again the following morning for our 3rd day of flying. We headed North West toward Alamosa. The weather forecast was not looking good as we approached the San Luis Valley, the largest alpine valley above 7500' in the world and is home to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. We flew toward the north east edge of the valley where you can see the tallest sand dunes in North America. Reaching over 700’ tall they would cover the city of Denver. The mountain passes ahead were socked in and the wind whipping across the alpine plain was wrestling with our small plane so we landed at the Alamosa Regional Airport and caught a ride into town for burgers at the San Luis Brewing Company. By the time we were finished with lunch the skies had cleared up so we took a cab back to the airport and took off again hoping to make it over the front range of the Rockies during this window of clear skies. We started by flying south toward Chama, NM and crossed the mountains near Wolf Creek after which we headed North West through the Southern Ute Indian Reservation to Durango. We landed at Animus Airpark late on the 3rd the day. Pete heard us coming in and was ready and waiting for our arrival. He was clearly excited as were leaving Cessna Skylane N2437X in Durango for Pete.
The next day Pete took the controls for some desert flying as we navigated to Window Rock AZ, the seat of the government of the Navajo Nation. After lunching in Window Rock we continued flying for the rest of the day site seeing over Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley, and the Goosenecks of the San Juans by Mexican Hat Utah. We continued over Soda Springs, Utah for a spectacular view of the otherworldly terrain of the San Juan Canyon. We ended the day flying over Mesa Verde as we headed back to Durango. Dad and I spent 3 more days visiting with Pete and site seeing from the ground. The last day of our trip Dad and I drove to Ouray, Co to see the ice starting to form on the vertical walls of the Ouray Ice Park and Gorge where in another month and a half the world ice climbing championships would be held.
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