April 3rd: Sante Fe, here we come, be it with plan A or plan B
On the morning of April 3rd we were ready to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico (KSAF). We knew that the terrain data on the Garmin could appear or not, so we had a plan for each situation:
- If the terrain data worked, we would make our way through the middle of the Rocky Mountains, following rivers and valleys to enjoy the views
- If it did not work, we would go around the mountains to stay on the safe side. Of course, we could fly without terrain data -many airplanes don’t even have it- but it’s like your car’s GPS: now that it exists, you don’t plan like before anymore. Before you would prepare for a trip, study the itinerary and take a map with you. Do you still do that now that you have GPS?
We had planned to leave the English style Inn in Broomfield Colorado, where we had taken refuge after our interrupted flight the previous day, at 7 am and ask them for a ride to the airport. If they could not take us, we would walk, after all it was only 25 minutes and the weather was very nice. Some exercise was welcome because we did spend a lot of time sitting in the plane these days… At 7 am sharp we were in the lobby but there was no one else and no sign of movement so we started our walk. A few minutes into it, we heard a car and Alex signaled for it to stop, as if he were hitchhiking. It pulled over and the young driver gave us a lift to the airport. He was a pilot student and was going to take his 3rd lesson in a PA 28, the same aircraft I had taken my classes in. This brought back memories of my early pilot-student days where I was terrified I would do something wrong. I am still amazed at how patient and professional my instructor Matias (who could have been my son) has been with me! Most pilot students dream of flying and being in the air since they are kids and many get their license as early as 16 or 17 years old. My motivation was rather to get on the ground safely and to be a better co-pilot, and I definitely was not a teenager. The mission has been accomplished though: I feel much safer in the air than before and enjoy the flights and their preparation more. Plus, I am now “crew” which helps a lot with crossing borders into some countries. By the way, following the recommendation of various earthrounders, we had these really cool crew cards made by CrewIDcard in Germany.
But we didn’t need those cards to go from Broomfield (KBJC) to Santa Fe. Since we arrived in the US, we have not shown our license or medical certificate one single time, whereas in Argentina it is a requirement for every flight plan.
After we checked the plane, we got in and switched the batteries on. This was the moment of truth: terrain data would either show up, or not. And it didn’t ☹ Remembering what Rusty from Freedom Aviation had said about his car’s card and the outside temperature the day before, we removed the card, placed it against the window where the morning sun was shining in and started blowing into the reader. After several attempts which showed “terrain data N/A”, we finally managed to warm the card and/or reader enough and just like the day before, the terrain data showed up. Hurray! We were going to Santa Fe through the middle of the Colorado mountains and land on the way in Salida airport (KANK, elevation 7500 feet) which had been highly recommended to Alex because of its beauty.
Spotting the Red rock Amphitheater carved in the rock where open air concerts are given
Making our way through the middle of the Rocky's in Colorado
Pike Peak on the left
The Royal Gorge, the deepest canyon of the Arkansas river
Following the Arkansas river
Landing on a plateau at Salida (KANK)
When we arrived in Salida (pronounced Salaïda), we were the only plane on the apron and felt as if the whole airport and the mountains around it were ours.
Shortly after however, we were dwarfed by a jet that dropped off 2 passengers who hopped into a car and took off minutes later without having shut off the engine. (Can you see LV GQF on the picture?)
According to the airport manager, they did not get such large planes often, but it is a better deal for them than small planes (up to 13,000 pounds) which don’t need to pay landing fees. Our plane’s weight is only about 2500 pounds so all the airport’s beauty was free and on top of that we met Rob Dubin and his gyroplane.
Rob and his wife had recently bought an apartment in Salida, after living a nomad life for over 25 years, first circling the earth in a sailboat during 17 years, then the US in a motor-home and Rob also was the first person to travel across the 48 lower US States in a gyroplane (a kind of miniature helicopter that flies low and a little slow). He was much more advanced in nomadic life than we are so he gave us lots of advice. We did ask him of course why he had decided after all these years to have a house again, he wasn’t really sure what triggered it but they bought it just before the pandemic which ended up being a great decision because he confessed that being locked up in a motor-home for a year would have been a challenge! Speaking of motor-homes, since I wrote about those we saw in Naples (Florida), I keep getting online ads for motor-homes because I looked up a few facts.
Rob recommended some places to visit while we were in the Rocky Mountains, and coming from someone who had been around the world and several times around the US, we took his tips very seriously. If you are interested in Rob’s adventures, the websites are: ventanasvoyage.com and gyroamerica.com3
Full of our unexpected encounters in Salida, we took off again towards the South. On the way , we passed the Great Sand Dunes that look like a huge beach that has flown from the mountain
We then continued following rivers and valleys
and reached Santa Fe around 2 pm, i.e. around Mexican lunchtime which was very appropriate for a city in New Mexico.