This Land Is Your Land

Bringing you the latest from Deming, New Mexico, where we landed this afternoon after an epic visit to El Paso, Texas. More about that in the next instalment – I need to catch up with the beginning of the week!

One Bravo Juliet got her fifty-hour check (essentially a tune-up) on Monday with the excellent Steve McCleod of McCleod Engineering at the Texas State Technical College airport in Waco (TSTC), so we had time to do a bit more sightseeing in Waco (where we have spent a total of three nights on this trip – indeed, we’ve spent an entire week in Texas overall!). The first stop on the morning’s tour was the Texas Ranger Museum and Hall of Fame and I think I learned more there and gained more of an understanding about American history than I’ve learned since high school. That is, Rangers as in The Lone Ranger (I GET IT NOW) – Texas’s own militia, as it were, from 1823 – they just celebrated their 200th anniversary. The museum also gave me much-needed insight as to how and why the thing we call “gun culture” became so ingrained in this country. The gangster bank robbers of the 1930s, with their sawed-off shotguns and submachine guns, were around within living memory. Just barely, but still! There was a fascinating display here on Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, aka the gangsters Bonnie & Clyde; and I was also intrigued by Miriam aka Ma Ferguson, Texas’s first woman governor, elected in 1924, and by Cynthia Ann Parker (no relation to Bonnie), captured by Comanches in 1836 at the age of nine in and who later married the chief Peta Nocona and whose son, Quanah Parker, was the Comanches’ last war chief. Tons of varied and intriguing history here.

We arrived back at TSTC just in time to watch a B-29 bomber landing to refuel during a training flight. The B-29 is a warbird dating to 1944; it flew the bombing missions over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and there are only two still flying in the whole world, and this was one of them. We fueled up at the same time (it took a bit more fuel than we did; we can carry 40 gallons max – they took on a thousand!), and then they flew several take-off and landings, so that we ended up taxiing at the same time. The pictures are not great but they are COOL.

We flew to Abilene that night, where we stayed in a highway hotel, and the next day we made a quick hop to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, where the WASPs – the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots – did their training in 1943 and 1944.

Ok, it was extremely cool to land at Avenger Field. We did not realize that the local airport and the WASP Museum do not really have access to each other, and we had to walk about a mile around the airport perimeter to get to the museum. It was worth the effort, though, to see so much commemorative memorabilia and information in their two hangars; among other things all their aircraft still fly, performing in airshows, and they have a “Link trainer,” the 1940s version of FlightSim.

Allison Marlett, the gift shop manager, could not have been more helpful, and in addition to enthusing over aviation literature, she drove us back to the Fixed Base Operator where we’d left the plane.

We then spent a few hours planning and waiting for the wind to change. There we ran into a couple of Jamaican pilots ferrying a plane to its new owner in the Caribbean. They’d landed at Avenger Field to check some issues with the plane. We recommended Steve McCleod!

Our final stop for the day was in Pecos, Texas. I confess that this really felt like the middle of nowhere. When we discovered that the airport courtesy car was leaking oil, we returned it and walked to the nearest hotel. We have walked a LOT in Texas, mostly along highway access roads and sometimes carrying our luggage and getting very dusty. This feels to me a little bit like living the Woody Guthrie dream.