Cinco de Mayo

We actually REALLY DID start our trip yesterday, and this morning we are in Phoenix!

We didn’t plan to be in Phoenix. We planned to spend the night in Gila Bend, Arizona, and indeed that’s where we landed, after routing through the Banning Pass, past Palm Springs, California, high over very barren desert country and across the Colorado River, to Gila Bend Municipal Airport. The wind was stronger and bumpier than we expected on landing (but no worse than the past month at Perth!).

We landed and refueled. There was a flurry of activity at the airport as a bunch of other people did the same – a young woman flying her grandfather’s lovely old shiny Cessna 170, and a young man working on building his flying time in a Cessna 152, who’d flown out to Tucson and was heading back to Chino (where I’d done a touch-and-go landing on Thursday). Another plane came in, did a few circuits without landing, and presumably didn’t like the wind and headed off again.

Everybody vanished as quickly as they’d come, and there we were at this empty airfield, baffled by the fact that we’d crossed into Mountain Time yet hadn’t lost an hour – till I remembered, after a random discussion nearly a year ago, that Arizona is the only state in the continental US to have abandoned daylights savings time!

There was ONE plane at Gila Bend Municipal Airport that we could see, a Cessna 150 with no wings. The hangar contained only a single antique fire engine. There was an airport office, open, with a sofa, a fridge, a microwave, and a bathroom; the office was inhabited by one spider and no humans. We unloaded all our luggage, made a reservation at the Gila Bend Space Age Best Western, and discovered that we had no transport into town. No Uber, no Lyft, no taxi, no one around to give us a ride – the hotel manager was away for the weekend, or she’d have done it. We thought about walking, but it was over two miles along a state highway full of trucks, and no footpath.

So after three hours, we made another plan, and decided to fly into Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. It wasn’t very far away, and it was the only place with a runway more or less INTO the stiff wind that was now blowing.

We’d already flown for two-and-a-half hours that day, but this last half-an-hour flight was probably some of the most challenging flying that Tim (or I) have ever done in terms of flight management – certainly the biggest airport I have ever turned up in via a single-engine plane! We came in at full power and top speed to avoid slowing down the poor guy behind us (“I can’t do less than 120,” we heard him say, and ATC responded, “Don’t worry, they’re not hanging around”). Tim landed and announced to me, “THIS is why I got my pilot’s license.”

We parked at one of the jet centers where we so definitely qualify as riffraff that it is kind of funny. The Rolls limo collecting passengers from the private jet next to ours no doubt cost thirty times what our plane is worth. I felt VERY CLASSY in my understated navy Lands’ End tank top! (This is true jet-setting, right?) And Tim had mocked me for bringing my ACS Aviation, Perth, high-visibility vest with me on this trip, because certainly at Gila Bend, nobody gave a damn. But I was pleased to wear it to cross from our plane to the jet center at Sky Harbor, so NER.

We spent the night in downtown Phoenix and went to their Cinco de Mayo festival and danced to the sound of Big Mountain playing live, and drank fresh sugar cane juice and ate shrimp tacos for supper.

Honestly fabulous.