Luscombe Road Trip—Wish me luck!

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by birdus, Sep 2, 2020.

  1. RyanShort1

    RyanShort1 En-Route

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    Awww. We were pretty close. I flew a leg from KINK to E48 earlier today. Probably will miss your visit due to other commitments. Wish I could pull my Luscombe out and scram down to meet you, but I'm headed on a road trip to @IK04's area with family.
     
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  2. RyanShort1

    RyanShort1 En-Route

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    Specifically KAQO and Lockhart for great BBQ...
     
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  3. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Breakfast at the hotel was included and good. While I was eating in the cafeteria, an old geezer with a cane walked in and sat down at a nearby table. The woman in the kitchen knew him by name and brought him a cup of coffee without even being asked. He threw down a five-dollar bill. After a few minutes, he looked over at me:

    Geezer: You in oil?
    Me: No.
    Geezer: You a terrorist?
    Me: You mean ANTIFA?
    Geezer: Yup.
    Me: No.
    Geezer: You of the conservative persuasion?
    Me: Yup.
    Geezer: I like your shirt.
    Me: Thanks.

    I got to the airport nice and early and was ready to takeoff by just a couple minutes after 7:00, my target departure time. However, the eastern sky was just barely beginning to lighten up by that time and I couldn’t see the clouds well enough to feel comfortable taking off, so I just relaxed in the pilot’s lounge for a few minutes, made one final visit to the bathroom, and sipped a free Dr. Pepper on the sofa. It wasn’t long at all before I thanked the extraordinarily if not excessively respectful, friendly, and slightly formal Ace, airport manager, and headed out to my plane.

    Ceiling was good, but there was some weather ahead. Every day of this trip has stretched me as a pilot, not hard to do when one has virtually zero experience. From turbulence and downdrafts to smoke to high density altitude (I thought about adding “only 3 cylinders functioning!” but I knew I would just stress people out—it’s a shame to waste humor) to new airports to clouds and rain. I took advantage of my ADS-B and had Stratus Insight show radar on the screen. Then I animated it to see if I could see a trend. What the iPad showed was verified by what I could see out in front of me—a couple cells with mostly light rain but with a hot spot, particularly off to the left.

    I veered slightly to the right and picked my target location for passage. The air was smooth and my plane got a bit of a bath. I could hear the rain hitting the plane, even with an active noise cancelling headset over my ears. After that line of clouds which I crossed over its narrow axis, it was clear of rain clouds all the way to Castroville. When I’d landed the day before, a Cessna 420 pulled up next to me on the ramp in Pecos, the pilot walked over, and we talked for a bit. He said he kept his J-3 Cub there and there were a number of other retired pilots doing lots of work on their planes each morning, so that was my first target landing zone of the day, quite a long leg for me.

    Not long after passing the line of rain clouds, the skies cleared and the terrain changed to low ridges and shallow valleys with the occasional snaking river. I couldn’t help myself. I remembered how much I’d enjoyed flying down in the canyons in Utah. I descended until I was within a few hundred feet of the ground. I cruised along at 100 mph for more than an hour, following the valleys, banking around corners, and popping up over the occasional ridge line that got in my way. I absolutely loved it! With the Luscombe’s leisurely cruise speed, I find flying low very enjoyable, with an amazing view of what’s just under the wingtips.

    Eventually, the air started getting bumpy, enough so that I got annoyed, and so I ascended a few thousand feet in the hope of finding a bit smoother air. Not only did it smooth out some, but it cooled off a bit. On the downside, I started getting pretty tired. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before, and, while I’d felt good on the ground and for the first part of the trip, it caught up with me. Falling asleep at the stick could’ve been bad news. I was anxious to arrive at Castroville.

    Before I knew it, I was receiving weather and was only a few miles out. I wasn’t excited about a bit of a crosswind, quartering right at 7 knots. I orbited the field and looked at the windsock, briefly considering landing on the grass, but I landed on the hard, black stuff and didn’t have too much of a problem. After fueling up, I parked and then had a brief chat with a guy that had landed just after me. He was flying a Jabiru and it was a really neat plane. I’d heard of their engines, but didn’t know they also made props and planes.

    I then proceed into the pilot’s lounge, possibly the nicest out of the modicum that I’ve visited. It was really nice. Air conditioned, nice bathrooms, lots of aviation-related reading material—a veritable aviation library—plenty of comfortable seating, a vending machine, and generally nice aviation-related decorations. The only thing I couldn’t find was the Wi-Fi password and no one to give it to me. No biggie. After resting for a bit and reviewing my route to San Marcos, I headed back out.

    As I approached my plane, I encountered someone walking around it eyeballing all the details. He asked if it was my plane and I answered in the affirmative. We chatted about planes for a bit—he and a friend (son?)—were in a Cirrus. He asked what my shirt meant. I got a kick out of that. I asked the other guy if he knew. He laughed and said he did. I said he could explain it later. That opened up a brief conversation about politics. We were certainly on the same page, not unlike I imagine I would be with a majority of Texans. My shirt has a silhouette of an AR-15 and the text says “It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?”

    They taxied out and I taxied out. I followed shortly after them, waited for them to turn right crosswind, then made my turn to the northeast. I climbed to 1,800 and flew under the shelves of Saint Tony’s class Charlie airspace, only a slight detour and probably the quickest way to get to San Marcos.

    Maybe 20 miles out, I listened to San Marcos ATIS and then began monitoring the tower. He gave another plane vectors and referenced the “weather out to the southwest.” Hmm. I’m to the southwest. Is there weather up ahead? I then realized I wasn’t seeing said weather on the iPad and did what I always seem to have to do after turning it on—go into its settings and connect it to the Stratus Wi-Fi, as it always connects first to one of my action cams. After that, I had it show me radar again. Ah! That weather! There was definitely precip straight ahead. I began to veer slightly to the north, but it then occurred to me that I had a left crosswind. I thought maybe the wind would blow those cells south of my current course, and so I reduced my veerage. My plane got another mild bath, but I was able to stay mostly on course. I contacted the tower and he put me on a left base for 3-5. Although the wind had been all over the place, even up to 12G17, at that moment, wind was right down 3-5 at around 10 knots. Pretty good.

    A Citation got vectored in ahead of me—even though he was much farther away—and I was cleared to land, number two after the Cessna. Ahem. The other kind of Cessna. I affirmed my clearance, and cut the base to final short. No reason to drag things out. I came in a bit hot and made a half-way-decent wheel landing. I got progressives to the FBO, got fuel, went through my usual routine of removing cameras from the plane, getting my bags ready for transport, and just made sure things were all buttoned up.

    I was overwhelmed by the reception I received at San Marcos. Josh Flowers and so many of you were there to greet me on my great trek. What a pleasure! Just kidding. No one was there. Not even crickets.

    I spent a while in the comfortable FBO after paying for the small top-up, looking for a hotel with an airport shuttle. Gave up after a bit. An Uber was pretty cheap.

    I’m spending an extra night here. My sister and brother-in-law are on the way down right now from Tyler. We’ll spend the day visiting and then they’ll head back. Tomorrow morning, I’ll plan on heading down to Brownsville. There’s some interesting weather out over the Gulf, so things might be interesting over the next few days. I think I'll beat the tropical storm, but there's still some rain forecast over the eastern part of Texas. After I’m west of Laredo, I think I’ll be able to relax a little more.

    Threading the needle just east of Pecos.
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    Low and slow in West Texas
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    Low and slow in West Texas
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    Low and slow in West Texas
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    Popping up over a ridge in West Texas
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    Low and slow in West Texas...not as slow as the traffic, though!
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    Low and slow in West Texas
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    Low and slow in West Texas
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    Castroville (KCVB)
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    Wheel landing at San Marcos (KHYI)
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    Last edited: Sep 18, 2020
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  4. Bender Aviation

    Bender Aviation Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good stuff
     
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  5. Arnold

    Arnold Line Up and Wait

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    Hey Jay, I see the flight is going well. Are the stills from your action cams. Also, how do you get the film developed so quickly:confused:
     
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  6. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Yes. So far, quite well. Just about as well as I could hope for.

    I brought a portable dark room. :D

    Most of the stills I'm posting here are frame grabs from action cam video, although several have been from a drone, and maybe one or two from a Sony A77II SLR. I don't think I've posted any from the Sony A6500 or Sony A7III, yet. And yes, I brought WAY too much stuff. By the way, the reason I have all the Sonys is because of my Minolta heritage and lens collection. A few people may understand what that means. I spend a few hours every day going through video footage and writing the blog posts.
     
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  7. danhagan

    danhagan Pattern Altitude

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    Great write up Jay. We have some big antennas here in TX so be careful and alert doing the low "contour" flying.

    You're getting a ton of experience on this trip. One of your photos near weather reminds me of one I have around here somewhere ... snapped two nearly back to back ... the second one has the start of a funnel cloud (was in the Pecos to San Angelo area a few years back).

    I haven't had a chance to go to Brownsville ... South Padre island low and slow will be a blast. I'd take the circuit route south to San Antonio then Corpus Christi, as direct Del Rio is a big load of absolutely nothing;)
     
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  8. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    PHASE ONE, TACOMA TO BROWNSVILLE, COMPLETE! YEEHAW!

    I woke up this morning at about 3:40, went to the bathroom, then lay in bed thinking about hurricanes until my alarm went off at 6:00. That was fun. It’s looking like I was worried for no reason, however.

    Conditions for departure at San Marcos were very nice, but most of the flight to Alfred C “Bubba” Thomas (T69) airport was very hazy. I never did see the horizon. At one point, I thought I’d try and climb above the haze or fog, but abandoned that idea after a few thousand feet of climbing. If I looked straight up through my skylight, I could see blue, and I could always see the ground below. I settled on about 2,000 feet, smoother than down low, but still low enough that I felt good about seeing the ground and keeping aware of my attitude. Between the two airports, there were a number of other small airports, but it was very sparsely populated—a few small towns, lots of farmland, and some oil wells.

    Winds were a bit brisk at T69, but they have two runways. I landed on the turf strip and had almost perfect wind alignment. On rollout, however, the ground got a bit mushy and had to apply plentiful throttle to keep moving. After talking to a nice—and very polite, of course (southerners)—student pilot and taking a short break, I decided to use the gorgeous asphalt runway for departure. Full aileron into the crosswind and staying on the rudder made it a non-event.

    When I got to the coast, I was planning on dropping in to Mustang Beach, but the 17-knot crosswind at about a 50-degree angle to the runway dissuaded me. I just went zipping on by.

    As I assumed, I thoroughly enjoyed flying down the coast with the waves nipping at my wheels. Apparently, when you fly 100 feet above the ocean for an extended period of time, a film accumulates on all forward-facing surfaces such as the windshield and cameras. While not a short distance, that segment of the trip passed quickly. It didn’t hurt that my normally 100-mph Luscombe was moving over the surface of the earth at up to about 130-mph.

    I called Brownsville tower and got my first taste of the Rio Grande, just off the left wing. The wind was split between runways 3-1 and 3-6. The controller initially put me on a right base for 3-1, but at the last minute had me continue on around for a right base for 3-6, possibly due to a slight wind shift, but maybe also influenced by the fact that there was a business jet in the run-up area for 3-1, ready to go. The wind was pretty sporting—the same wind that had been speeding my flight along the coastline—and so I came in a bit hot and made a wheel landing.

    The guys at the FBO—Southmost Aviation—were very nice and got me fueled and parked, in between servicing King Airs. I took advantage again of the brilliant Uber to get to my hotel, got the electronics taken care of, and then got some Mexican for dinner, some of the most flavorful I’d ever had, at Ke Buen Taco, a short walk from the hotel. In fact, I’m about to enjoy some leftovers.

    Tomorrow begins PHASE TWO of the trip: flying along the entire U.S./Mexico border from Brownsville to San Diego.

    Sunrise at San Marcos (KHYI)
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    Hazy/foggy all the way to Alfred C “Bubba” Thomas airport (T69)
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    Alfred C “Bubba” Thomas airport (T69)
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    Short final for runway 3 at Alfred C “Bubba” Thomas airport (T69)
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    Heading toward the gulf coast.
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    5 tugs moving a drilling rig out to sea
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  9. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Zipping along the gulf coast
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    Zipping along the gulf coast
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    Enjoying the beautiful gulf coast
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    Zipping along the gulf coast
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    This is what happens to forward-facing surfaces when you fly low over the ocean. It got worse than this as time went on.
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    Right base for 3-6, Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (KBRO)
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    Short final for 3-6
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    About to touch down for a wheel landing at Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (KBRO)
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  10. Bender Aviation

    Bender Aviation Pre-takeoff checklist

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    What time do you expect to be at Brown Field? A cool place to stop on the way north out of San Diego is Kernville L05: Its about 3 hours from SDM, with a unique and challenging downwind and final approach through a narrow canyon. A greasy spoon diner and campgrounds right on the airport.
     
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  11. Tusayan

    Tusayan Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Noted Luscombe restorer/expert Barry B’s hangar is adjacent to the First Flight fuel pumps at Brown Field KSDM. He’s a good guy with huge flying experience. Might be worth seeking out if you’re there.
     
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  12. Bender Aviation

    Bender Aviation Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good call. Barry's a great guy, he gave me my check-ride. John's hanger here is worth a mention:
    https://imgur.com/a/GzkqgIV
     
  13. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Ooh! That sounds cool! I plan on trying to go through R-2301 on Sunday (one week from tomorrow) for the best chance of getting cleared through (or maybe I'll call FSS first thing Saturday and see if I can make it through then), so probably Sunday or Monday.
     
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  14. Bender Aviation

    Bender Aviation Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You may also want to give Catalina KAVX a shot. About 1 hour north of KSDM and not really out of the way for a northbound trip. It's about 15 minutes over water. I know you probably have a few places you want to hit, but this is an all time favorite for many people. Our savior Josh Flowers did a few videos on it.
     
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  15. Arnold

    Arnold Line Up and Wait

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    From your pic runway 3 a "Bubba" municipal, greater regional, international airport looks pretty rough, how was it?
     
  16. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Not bad in the first half where I landed, but a bit rough/soft after that which made taxiing to the asphalt runway a bit laborious, and intersection of the turf and asphalt runways wasn't melded too well. Wouldn't want to hit that going fast.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
  17. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    This is a photo of the crowded ramp at Alamogordo from several days ago, Luscombe on the left, CAP Cessna on the right.
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    The Luscombe at Alfred C "Bubba" Thomas airport (T69).
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  18. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    I started the day by calling FSS. Apparently, I was mistaken. The briefer told me it it necessary to file a DVFR flight plan only if you are crossing the border, not merely flying close to it. So, apparently I do not need a transponder, two-way radio, or the DVFR flight plan, all of which are required for flying through the ADIZ. Huh.

    Departing Brownsville (KBRO). I started by flying out to the coast and then headed back east at the mouth of the Rio Grande river, the official start of Phase II of my trip.
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    Heading out over the Gulf. I had to swing pretty wide so as to avoid the SpaceX TFR. Around the south side of the TFR, I really had to thread the needle to squeeze between the TFR and Mexico.
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    There were a number of border fence segments along today's flight. I saw lots of Border Patrol vehicles along the way. You can see a few agents chatting with each other in this photo. The road they drive on along the border looks very nice. Yes, I'm tempted.
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    A new border wall segment under construction. There's lots of farmland along the border, both to the north and south, and much of the American farm land is actually south of the fence, but north of the Rio Grande. Some Americans actually have to go through a gate in the fence to access the rest of their own property.
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    Lots of semis doing something at this plant near a border crossing. I don't know what it was, but it looked interesting.
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    Rio Grande (67R)
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    An old fuel pump station at Rio Grande (67R)
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    A view of the Rio Grande. Mexico is on the left and the United States is on the right. My first day flying along the border was a real pleasure. I ended up following the meandering Rio Grande probably a little more closely than I had planned (i.e., I cut fewer corners), which means I flew more miles. I refueled at Zapata (KZPT) just as a buffer, although I would've made it to Laredo with the requisite buffer.
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    I never get tired of seeing someone living out in remote areas. It sparks my imagination wondering what they're doing out there.
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    The controller at Laredo (KLRD) cleared me to land runway 3-6 Left probably 7 miles out. I imagine he wondered when the hell that old plane was going to get there. No excuse for an unstabilized approach when I have that much time.
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    I was walking around Laredo last night and on the way back to the hotel, a scruffy, pale-skinned kid asks me—in pretty bad Spanish for someone living on the border—"Tienes un dollar?" I just shook my head, not only because I didn't have a dollar (although I would've shaken it, anyway), but because his Spanish was so bad, and because I didn't realize I'd gotten such a good tan on this trip.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
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  19. Arnold

    Arnold Line Up and Wait

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    How far did you taxi to get to the FBO?
     
  20. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    I requested Barker. They're at the southwest corner of the field. I landed on 3-6 Left and made the first turnoff (very easily). So, the taxi was quite short. Just a couple minutes.
     
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  21. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Dickey's is not BBQ. Well, if you're desperate and not in Texas. Or Kansas. Dickey's is to BBQ what Olive Garden is to Italian food.
     
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  22. flyersfan31

    flyersfan31 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If you didn’t feel comfortable in your flying skills, you should now.
     
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  23. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    What about Black's? I actually liked what I ate at Dickey's more than a couple of the things I had at Black's.
     
  24. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Just got to the hotel in Del Rio and am going through my usual routine. Turn on the TV, plug in batteries for recharging, and start copying video footage to the hard drive. First card’s copying (You know your hard drive’s getting full when the copy rate drops from 86 MB/s to under 60 MB/s. 4.5 TB down, on to the next drive.). Let’s see what’s on the boob tube. CSI Miami? Probably looking for something a little more substantive at the moment. The Kelly Clarkson Show? I loved her on the first season of American Idol, but I have no interest in her show. The People’s Court? Crap. Primer Impacto? Wouldn’t hurt for me to practice my Spanish, but I’m feeling lazy right now. Good Eating With Marlo Smith? I want to Mexican food. I’m hungry. However, I couldn’t care less about food shows on TV. Under Eye Bags? Solution. Pretty sure I have under eye bags right now, but I’d rather have under eye bags than watch a TV show about them. Narispatnam Alexandrite? WTF is that? Doesn’t matter. I’m not interested. Looking for a Medicare Plan? A TV show pushing big government on us? We’re screwed. Lift Your Sagging Boobs. It’ll take more than watching a TV show for an hour. Suffering From Lower Back Pain? As a matter of fact, I am. Better do some stretching. First Man. Seen it. Like it. I’ll watch that.

    I walked around Laredo a bit last night and so got to bed a bit late. Between that and a short flight today, I slept in a little and made my way to the airport in a rather leisurely fashion.

    Upon being queried, I explained to Laredo Tower that I wanted to fly over to the border and follow the river to the north. He cleared me for a left turn out. I’d barely climbed to 1,000 AGL when I descended back down to follow the river. Today was another really fun day of low and slow over the Rio Grande. I continued to a pretty fair number of U.S. Border Patrol agents, giving them wing wags as I flew past. I even waved to one through my open window and he waved back.

    At one point, I spotted an aircraft ahead of me maybe a couple miles. I determined it was a helicopter and that he was flying at about my speed and in the same direction. I followed him for 20 minutes. I figured he was Border Patrol. I kept a close eye on him and was prepared to maneuver to avoid him if he were to change direction. I began to catch up to him and very shortly did. He had maneuvered over Mexico, maybe ¼ mile off to my left, and come to a hover. It was a U.S. Border Patrol JetRanger. I gave him a wing wag and continued on.

    Maverick County Airport (5T9) was interesting. It used to be Eagle Pass Army Airfield. Its lifespan was from 1943 to 1945. Seems like a lot of airports in the U.S. were originally military. Thank you, taxpayers! During the Cold War, it was a U.S. Air Force radar facility. You can clearly see that there used to be another runway perpendicular to the current runway. There’s a nice pilot lounge at the field and an old guy that runs the joint. Between another nearby airport and Maverick, he’s worked in the area for decades. One of the old pop machines at the airport was originally purchased for the other airport where he worked and was later brought to Maverick. There are two pop machines there, both very old, and one of which was a type I'd never used before. Pretty neat. He also had a super-friendly airport cat.

    Taxiing back to the threshold of runway 31 was a trek in and of itself. I got a kick out of it. It seemed like I was just driving around in the wilderness.

    The entire day’s flight was uneventful and quite enjoyable. I refueled at Del Rio and parked in front of the FBO there, Pico. It’s a very nice FBO.

    By the way, it sure is nice to have my fourth cylinder working again!

    Taxiing at Laredo (KLRD)
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    Left turn out at Laredo (KLRD)
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande. Saw fields of these purple flowers, on both sides of the border (no surprise there). Very nice!
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande and loving it!
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande. These striations of rock in the river were very interesting.
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    Last edited: Sep 22, 2020
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  25. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande. Check out the shack off my right wing tip. Fascinating!
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande
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    One of many border crossings along the Texas/Mexico border.
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    Maverick County Airport (5T9)
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    Old pop machine at Maverick County Airport
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    Old pop machine at Maverick County Airport
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    Old pop machine at Maverick County Airport
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    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
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  26. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Interesting all the things you fly past on the border. This is just off my right wing tip.
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    This tight bend in the river caught me off guard.
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    Someone doing some burning in their field along the Rio Grande.
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    Buzzing along the Rio Grande
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    More interesting sightings along the Rio Grande.
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    Final approach at Del Rio (KDRT)
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  27. idahoflier

    idahoflier Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    I know you're probably doing this, but I can't help but say, watch for wires!
     
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  28. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Del Rio to Presidio, Part I

    I accidentally called the hotel at about 6:40 AM instead of the taxi I’d taken from the airport to the hotel the previous afternoon. Didn’t realize it until he showed up 60 seconds later and we started talking. It turns out the Whispering Palms Inn in Del Rio, Texas provides free shuttle service to and from the airport. The hotel owner is the one who gave me a lift back to the airport. I didn’t quite catch it all, but he was from Kenya and must’ve lived in Britain, but is now an American. He pioneered some travel websites, built multiple hotels, has two sons studying Computer Science with an emphasis in Cybersecurity, and is in Del Rio primarily working with an orphanage in Ciudad Acuña in Mexico.

    Having arrived at the airport quite early—a few minutes before Pico opened, in fact—I was able to prep the plane and get ready to go, in a quite relaxed fashion, and still get off just after the sun came up.

    I enjoyed a day of very nice weather. The skies were clear, the air was mostly smooth, and the temperatures were comfortable, even on the deck. And the flying? Let me summon my inner Mark Twain. Actually, I have no inner Mark Twain, so I’ll just stumble along inelegantly.

    I began by flying over the Amistad Reservoir, byproduct of the Amistad Dam. Amistad means “friendship” in Spanish, and the border between Mexico and the United States bisects the large body of water, with buoys protruding from the water every so often. The reservoir is fed by the Rio Grande and by the Devils River, both originating in the United States. The shoreline rises softly from the water in an undulating manner and has a very complex outline. Fishermen in small boats appeared on the surface of the smooth morning water once every few miles as I made my way generally northwest. As I came to the main inlet, the banks converged and, with small cliffs on both sides, formed a beautiful valley, only a small portion of which was occupied by the Rio Grande. Lush vegetation filled the remainder. I wondered about the massive flow which must’ve existed in times past to form that river valley.

    As the river slowly climbed, the terrain began to transform into something brutal. Back in Utah, I’d learned that I enjoyed flying in winding canyons. Flying through the Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas Canyons, cut deep into limestone uplifts, was jaw dropping. As I approached one of the tallest, tightest sections, I became concerned. The walls were absolutely vertical and there didn’t appear to be much space between them. I firewalled the throttle and started to climb. I preferred to be above the rim in this case. However, as I came around the corner, I could see straight through to the other side. I pulled back to low cruise power and gave back some of the altitude I’d just gained. I estimated the width between the sheer cliffs on either side of me at around 100 feet. The experience was truly awesome.

    In other sections, I ascended above the canyons. The terrain was incredibly rough. I regularly think about where I would land if the ol’ C-85 exploded. I looked around. There was absolutely no good place to set down. None. No flat surfaces. No smooth ground. Just rough, rocky terrain, cliffs, drop-offs. What I would probably do would be to fly down into the canyon and hope for a stretch of straight river—not very likely—and hope that I wouldn’t reach stall speed as I was in the middle of a sharp bend in the Rio Grande (called the Rio Bravo in Mexico). I was highly focused.

    While I fly, I very regularly utter six words: oil pressure’s good, oil temperature’s good. While not busy avoiding flying into rock walls, that was my mantra.

    Beyond the canyons came wide, relatively-flat valleys—even a dirt road here and there. Although flying in the canyons was out of this world, there was something to be said for the slightly lower pucker factor of simpler flying.

    If you fly along the Texas/Mexico border, you can’t just draw a line connecting two points. The Rio Grande is a meandering river and boy does it meander! I would recommend you increase your distance estimate by 50% if you follow the river closely. I’m talking about fuel planning here. I figured I had plenty of fuel for the flight, but as I went, I grew slightly uncomfortable. I’d planned a stop at Lajitas, but hadn’t figured on getting fuel there. As I continued, I did the math and, although I was confident I’d get to Lajitas with fuel to spare, I decided that I would top up a tank before continuing on to Presidio. I didn’t top up both, as fuel is cheaper at my day’s final destination. At Lajitas, I had more than an hour’s fuel left, but that wasn’t too much for my taste. That airport and the nearby town are run by and revolve around the golf resort there. The airport and FBO were very nice.

    The radio was quiet as I approached Presidio, about 45 minutes later. I did my usual flyover for documentation purposes and also to look at the wind sock. There was no wind sock that I could see. The AWOS was indicating light winds and my groundspeed seemed to agree. I set it down and taxied over to the fuel. It was warm and dead quiet. After filling up, I pushed my plane across the apron to a tie down. Mine was the only plane there. I went into the FBO to go to the bathroom, cool down, and see about the hotel.

    A guy showed up who helps to manage a few airports in the area (a few local pilots assist) and we chatted for a few minutes. He told me about some very interesting history of the town and noteworthy geological sites in the area and expressed disappointment that the city didn’t put more effort into attracting tourism. He was heading back home to the Gulf Coast and went on his way—in his pickup truck.

    There’s one fancy hotel in Presidio, but it’s outside town, and I wasn’t really interested in being insulated from the destination. Long story short, another hotel’s phone had been disconnected and three taxi numbers I called didn’t result in getting me a ride. It wasn’t looking good. Before coming on this trip, I’d wanted to go over into Mexico at every stop along the border. Between the aggressive pace of the trip, writing these blog posts, charging batteries, offloading video footage, and producing stills from the video for the blog posts, I haven’t really had time to actually visit my stops.
     
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  29. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Del Rio to Presidio, Part II

    This time, however, I decided to do what I’d wanted to do anyway. I took the courtesy car, drove to the border, parked, then walked to Mexican immigration. The guy had me put my camera/gimbal and backpack on a conveyor belt. He switched it on. They rolled through his X-ray machine. I grabbed camera/gimbal as they came out the other side. Here’s the abbreviated version of what happened next.

    Immigration Officer (IO): How many cameras do you have?
    Me: That one plus several for my plane. I’m on vacation and flying around the western U.S. I don’t use those on the ground. They’re just for the plane.
    IO: What else do you have?
    Me: These hard drives are for copying video files. All these cables are for copying files.
    IO: Do you have a computer?
    Me: Yes.
    IO: Can I see it?

    Showed him the laptop and iPad and explained I used the iPad for flying.

    IO: What else is in the bag?
    Me: Clothes.
    IO: Can I see them?

    I proceeded to remove a dozen t-shirts, a dozen pairs of socks, underwear, shorts, pants, a towel and washcloth from the bag. I then held the backpack upside down and shook it, demonstrating that I had removed every effing thing from it.

    IO: Okay. Go ahead.

    Didn’t even check my passport. Just made me take everything out of my backpack after having looked at it on X-ray. Was he trying to prove to me that he’s doing a great job? I have no idea. Totally stupid. I was perfectly nice to him, but I was irritated. I repacked my entire backpack and left the building.

    Outside, there was one more guy. A pretty young guy. I had to get by him to get through the gate into Ojinaga, I guess. He was holding a bottle of what I assumed was hand sanitizer. He squirted three squirts of it into my outstretched hand. I rubbed my hands together until the sanitizer mostly evaporated, although it stuck around longer than I would’ve liked. I wiped my hands on my shirt. Last, he took my temperature. He said I’m okay and I could proceed. I’m glad I don’t have the COVID. I worry about it constantly, so I feel relieved.

    I walked the short distance—maybe a quarter mile—to the place I thought I would stay. Obviously, I’d misunderstood the guy on the phone when I called him from the airport. I didn’t really want a suite that cost $150 a night. He graciously drove me to a regular hotel just a few blocks away. The woman at the front desk said it cost $90. I wasn’t too much more excited about that, but was about at the point I didn’t care. Long story short, the room is nice and her exchange rate calculations were off. The room cost 1,200 pesos, or around $57. I could certainly find something cheaper, but this is actually about what I like to pay and it’s a nice place—Waru Hotel. It’s within walking distance of the border, has nice rooms, and serves a really great breakfast, which is included. Recommended.

    I went to the room, asked the housekeeper outside my door if the room was ready—she said yes—and I entered. “Perfecto,” I told her. She smiled. I dropped my things and downed the bottle of water that had been left on the sink for my drinking pleasure. It was definitely pleasurable. I plugged in some batteries and then got some video files copying. Then I took a nap.

    Eventually, I walked down the street to a restaurant that had some good reviews. It was just the kind of place I was looking for. The kind of place locals would tend to go—Mexican food with outdoor plastic chairs. Unfortunately, it was closed. Maybe my clock was off. On the other hand, they may have been under construction. Seems like places close early or are closed a few days a week. A couple other places I went by didn’t seem to exist. Google? There was an Oxxo (a convenience store) right next to the hotel, so I went in there and raided their shelves. Good enough. I spent a while getting some photos together for the entertainment of my fans while I ate, and finally turned in.

    I slept in today, did some flight planning and a few other housekeeping items, had a great breakfast—I was the only one in the dining room, as the hotel is mostly empty—and spent a couple hours writing this post.

    Tomorrow? El Paso, Texas.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  30. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Amistad Reservoir
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    Amistad Reservoir
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    Pecos High Bridge
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    2020-09-22 20_43_50-Luscombe Road Trip - Copy.docx - Word.jpg


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    2020-09-22 20_53_45-Luscombe Road Trip - Copy.docx - Word.jpg
     
  31. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    2020-09-22 21_00_33-Luscombe Road Trip - Copy.docx - Word.jpg


    VID_20200922_064617_00_001_2020-09-22_21-07-36_screenshot.jpg


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    My little Luscombe at Presidio Lely International Airport (KPRS)
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    My little Luscombe at Presidio Lely International Airport (KPRS)
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    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  32. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    The terrain today was dramatically different than what I'd seen up until now. There were places where the Rio Grande wasn't the least bit grand. In fact, there were places where it was bone dry. It was also the hottest day of the trip. Oil temperature climbed to near the very top of the green, and pressure dropped slightly, due to decreased viscosity because of the increased temperature, I presume. That was exciting. In other news, I landed at a class-C airport for the first time (El Paso, KELP). Today marks the end of the Rio Grande. Tomorrow? Douglas, AZ. Flying along lines for the next couple days.

    Taking off from Presidio, Texas.
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    Landing at El Paso (KELP).
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  33. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    NASA Super Guppy at El Paso International Airport (KELP). Rudy, from Atlantic Aviation, drove me over in one of their electric carts and we did a couple laps around it.
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    I was going to do a tour of the Franklin Mountains before landing in El Paso yesterday, but I was a bit tired and it was hot, so I did it this morning on departure, instead.
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    Mount Cristo Rey
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    Saw lots of this today. Some of the border has anti-personnel fence, like this, and other places have anti-vehicle fence, or even just standard barbed-wire fence. Some places have nothing, or just natural barriers.
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    Since before I came on this trip, I wanted to land along the border on a dirt road or somewhere. This is a road that's perpendicular to the border (you can see the fence in the background). I came in for a low pass for a possible landing. There were some bushes on the side that I thought might be a little high. Also, I wasn't sure if the fence posts would be too high or not, but I just felt a little bit too constrained, so I bailed. Beautiful surface, though!
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    A little bit later on, I found a spot that was similar to a dry lakebed. It looked good for a landing. I had checked out another spot before this one, but decided against it. So, third one was the charm.
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    I had made a couple low passes to check out the ground. Then I did a quick touch down a higher-than-landing speed. That validated the ground was firm. This was my final for landing. I was a bit faster than necessary, at least for an optimal short landing, and had to use some brakes to stop before the bushes in the distance. For the takeoff, it would've been really nice if this fence hadn't been there for a bit more space. I think only 3 cylinders were firing for the takeoff. Almost ran into a (very large) bush at the far end, but kept my cool and didn't force the plane into the air. Success and a good learning experience.
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    Utter silence. I added a quart of oil and took a few minutes to enjoy the peace.
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    A cement manufacturing contraption in the foreground and lots of steel fence units to the right. I came across a number of these staging/work areas for work on the border during my few hundred miles of flying today. There's definitely quite a bit of work going on down south, whatever people's opinions of "the wall" are.
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    As much as I love the mountains, I think the desert is beautiful, too!
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    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
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  34. Jill

    Jill Filing Flight Plan

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    I sure like that picture of the plane on the creek bed with the hills in the background and the sagebrush in the foreground. What was field elevation?
     
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  35. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    I think it was probably around 4,400 feet. I like that picture, too. :)
     
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  36. Southpaw

    Southpaw Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Enjoying the trip with you.
    Guppy is amazing that it can fly .

    Thanks for sharing.
     
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  37. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Thanks, Southpaw. I appreciate it! (and I agree about the Guppy!)
     
  38. CharlieD3

    CharlieD3 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I know I haven't liked every post.. but I sure am enjoying this saga... Even made me you out and repurchase A Flight of Passage by Rinker Buck..

    Keep it coming, I look forward to the video compilation when it's all done.
     
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  39. birdus

    birdus Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    US/Mexico border looking across into Nogales, Mexico.
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    US/Mexico border. Mexico side on top.
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    Nogales, Mexico
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    Nogales, Mexico
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    Nogales, Mexico on right, Nogales, Arizona on left.
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    Santa Cruz Historic Court House, Nogales, Arizona. Border fence in background.
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    Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Parish
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  40. Bender Aviation

    Bender Aviation Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Nice hilly terrain