I arrived in the Bay Area to the terrible air quality resulting from the wildfires burning across Northern California, including the catastrophic Camp Fire. San Bruno Mountain was barely visible from SFO and downtown was a hazy outline from Treasure Island. It was great to catch up with friends and spend time in the East Bay and Monterey where I lived a total of 29 years.
From Carmel we meandered down Highway 1 along the coast, having a last lunch at Ventana high up in the hills near Big Sur. The winding road was the most scenic portion of the entire journey on a cloud free afternoon, south of the wildfire smoke. Turning inland just past Cambria, Highway 46 winds through the coastal hills through booming Paso Robles and out to the Central Valley. Past the torn up landscape of Lost Hills oil rigs by I-5 the drive was slow going behind trucks. We stopped at a 99 cent store parking lot in Wasco to feed dogs, unfortunately discovering in the dim light weeds sticking to their fur. After the trek through the Tehachapi Pass it was late getting into Barstow making it the first stop.
From Barstow through Needles and Kingman up into the mountains and Flagstaff went from the dry desert to mountain snow alongside the highway. It was getting late in eastern Arizona so we settled into Holbrook for the night, visiting the Petrified Forest the next day. The namesake fossils were formed when downed logs in rivers were buried with volcanic ash, replacing the internal structure with silica forming quartz, colored by trace iron oxide. This leaves wonderful large mineral deposits still retaining the shape of the originating trees. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in the 1880s and later Route 66 brought tourism right through the park. On a chilly November morning we passed only a handful of other visitors.
I was unfamiliar with the movie The Petrified Forest, an Achie Mayo adaptation of a 1935 Broadway production. The story has little to do with the park beside being set a diner there during the Great Depression.
Being late in the year there was little fervor in mid November roadside tourism. Continuing on I-40 we made good time through Gallup (sopapillas!) and Albuquerque to Tucumcari. Once a busy rail junction and then a major stop on the Mother Road the town is most notable to me through its reference in westerns and is today fairly quiet. Del's offered some tasty enchiladas under their vintage neon sign.
From Tucumcari we turned northeast and across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles through to Kansas. The wind swept High Plains were brutal while trying to walk the occasionally fussy dogs. The Wizard of Oz makes no reference to Dorothy's specific home town but Liberal, Kansas makes claim to the title, with statues across town, a museum, and a replica house. Stopping to have a late lunch we found options limited by a train blocking the main street, Kansas Ave, that didn't move out until after we had finished eating.
Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, was even larger than I had envisioned. We were able to find a nice hotel downtown just a couple of blocks from the river. From there it was a relatively quick segment back to KC including the entire length of the Kansas Turnpike.
Spent a week in Anchorage for work this month, to help with the future of aviation cloud and visibility forecasting in the state of Alaska. It was late in the season so many businesses were closed and the weather was more dreary than in previous visits. Still it was nice to take an extra day on the weekend before to go exploring on the Kenai Peninsula, before spending the next several days primarily in conference rooms. Dinner at Orso was great as always, and Bread and Brew was a great new suggestion from the hotel barman.
French Bottoms, an area of river bottom along the Missouri River near St. Joseph, was by settlers from France as early as the 1850s. The flood of 1952 damaged many buildings but also changed the course of the river, cutting off access from the rest of the state of Missouri. To reach the area today one must drive across a bridge into Kansas and then a couple of miles north back into virtual enclave.
Rosecrans Municipal Airport was created in 1939 in the area and named after Sgt Guy Wallace Rosecrans, the only airman from nearby St. Joseph killed in World War I, and it became an army airfield as well shortly thereafter. Scheduled airline service ended in 1969 but the airport remains active, primarily in use by the Missouri Air National Guard.
Kansas City is 1500 miles away from San Francisco but unfortunately last week it took far longer than the usual four to six hours of traveling. Weather caused delays with both the inbound aircraft, as well as the flight to Denver, causing a diversion south into central Texas to avoid thunderstorm activity. Mechanical issues with the airplane caused another significant delay while maintenance personnel tracked down fluids leaking from the wing. Unfortunately this led to my missing the connecting flight, and with high load factors another vacant seat between the two hubs was not available until the following afternoon so I was forced to spend the night at an area hotel.
The next day my new connecting flight was also delayed, this time first by air traffic compensation for weather causing capacity issues at SFO. This flight was also afflicted by mechanical issues though, this time a faulty avionics component. After an hour or so of troubleshooting, we were forced to deplane and find another aircraft. After an attempt to board quickly, the pilots timed out regardless forcing a wait for a new flight crew. Lunch was to be served, however we were cautioned against eating the food that went unrefridgerated for hours having been transferred from the previous plane.
More than 24 hours later, and about the same amount of time it would take to drive non-stop between the two cities, I arrived back in California. It was very unfortunate to lose a whole day out of an already short trip.