Woke up at 9:00 A.M. I was in no hurry due to the winds up at altitude. I knew today wouldn't be a flying day. Laziness can be quite enjoyable sometimes! I grabbed some breakfast, gobbled up another free hotel night with my rewards points, then slowly made my way over to the airport.
I wasn't going to be able to do any revenue work, but I could use today as a scouting day. So that's just what I did. The winds were already kickin' on the ground, at 13 knots gusting to 25. Gotta love those mountain gusts! The winds were out of 180 at the time, so the Tower gave me the option of Runway 11 or Runway 22. I went with 22.
I taxied out, then took off. I was just going to stay in the pattern. The winds weren't too bad until I came closer to the mountains to the south. I had a couple of nice jolts, one throwing me out of my seat! I made a wide left downwind due to the winds pushing me that way and came back around to land. It's a pretty sweet airport to fly...you are nestled right in the valley between mesas/mountains/large rock on both sides. So I turned base before the huge chunk of rock to the north and came in to land. No worries.
I taxied back and took off again. This time Tower told me to fly runway heading until he called my turn. Two military jets were coming in doing a high approach on Runway 11. He eventually called my turn, then told me to stay east of the Colorado River. So I did that, as well. Then he said to continue downwind until he called my base. Well...that call never came. I was HAULING with the winds out of the south, too, and all I could see was this large plateau of rock getting closer and closer, right in my base turn. So as the PIC, I told the Tower what I was going to do. I'm turning base! I wondered if he would let me, but seriously, that rock was at my 11 o'clock and moving in quick. I had a possible option of turning to the right, but there was a large upsloping mountain even there. Sometimes you just can't wait for another guy to save your life. I made the turn.
Me: "Aztec turning base, traffic in sight."
Tower: "Aztec, yeah, you can go ahead and turn base."
It ended up being just fine. But I was still being pushed pretty quickly to the south, so I tightened the bank! And as I rolled out, I had a BEAUTIFUL view of the rock just below me and to the right. I scrambled for my camera. I wonder how many people have flown this close to this rock! I mean, I was just a few hundred feet off the rocky slope!!! I managed to take a couple of pics while on base.
I turned for final and had an uneventful landing. Winds were steady at 17 knots. I taxied in and still had a problem with my heater fan shutting down, much like yesterday. Hmm. I called my boss and mechanic.
I headed back to the hotel, walked downtown to a Nepali/Indian restaurant for lunch, then walked downtown some more. It's a pretty sweet downtown...the shops are actually still there, unlike most of the rest of American towns. It's beautiful. I found a street artist doing portraits, and she was rather good! Hmm...
I headed back for the hotel, then decided I would head for the Colorado National Monument. So I hopped in the car, but I found myself driving to downtown!!! I wanted a picture of me! So I walked up to the young woman and waited for her to finish another older man. I looked at the picture, and I was quite impressed! It looked like him! After she left, I plopped myself down in a chair in the sun and just stared off into the distance as she proceeded to draw me! It turned out to be a pretty sweet picture. It definitely looks like me! She was charging $10 a pop, but after learning about her story (she's an art major, just finished her first semester, this was her first day, she was nervous and didn't know if anyone would show up), I gave her $15. I am ALL about people following their dreams. She could have a pretty sweet gig right there on that street. She has amazing talent. And I have a portrait going in my house!!!
Fiiiiiiiiinally, I headed out to the Colorado National Monument. As I left town, the boss said he needed my right-side tach numbers. <sigh> So I had to cancel my plans and run out to the airport...about 20 minutes away. But I just did it. No sense making it more painful than necessary. Then I headed BACK to the Monument! I honestly didn't know what to expect, as I had never heard of this thing before. But as I took the backroads to get there, I was quite thrilled with what I saw. It was GORGEOUS!!! I saw one of the little National Parks booths up ahead, and I was surprised to find out that I would have to pay to get in there, but I also realized that this was going to be time out of the hotel. It's worth the money. The ticket cost was $7.
And so for the next hour and a half, I just drove through the rocks and valleys! I don't really understand how engineers do it, but the road was just following the rim ALL THE WAY around...for about 23 miles! It really is quite amazing to see. There were no guard rails, and if you flew off the road at any time, you were basically dead. That was fun to think about! It was hot (around 90), but the views were just gorgeous. It reminded me of the Grand Canyon, although on a smaller scale. This definitely had more green to it!
It was definitely money well-spent.
I finally came out on the other side, then made my way back to Grand Junction. I didn't do too much the rest of the day. I stayed in the hotel until supper, then made my way to a lil' new sub shop. I had a roast beef/apple/sprouts sandwich. It was quite tasty.
I came back to the hotel, but I was sooooooooo tired. I ended up falling asleep around 7:45. I woke up around 8:30, but that was the last I saw of the clock. I was quickly back asleep and stayed that way...
I had logged o.7 hours today. But I had my own little mini vacation. It was humbling seeing families and RV's out there...these people drive here for vacations!!! And yet this was just another "Hmm, I'm bored, so let's go exploring" day in my life. It's pretty crazy what I get to do.
Tomorrow is lookin' nasty again. The winds are actually going to be stronger at 12,000 feet! They are forecast to be around 65 knots!!! Way too fast to image. So it looks like I have another day off. I did get quite sad today, though, as I realized exactly where I was at. I was looking at our FBO's website, and they boast "346 VFR days with visibility better than 20 miles and ceilings of 5,000 ft. +". <sigh> I also looked at the forecast for the area, and it's 10 days of sunshine. Oh boy. I have a feeling I am going to be flying my face off. To the tune of more than 8 hours a day.
It's hard to get prepared for that. I'll enjoy tomorrow, then brace myself for what lies beyond.
Here we go.