The author, Mark Keneston, is CubCrafters’ sales manager in the Great Lakes/Northeast territory.
The plan was hatched shortly after AirVenture 2018: I would travel west to pick up CubCrafters’ Carbon Cub FX-3 demonstrator and fly it east for a two month stay. I had a bunch of demo flights to perform, and since the company still has just one FX-3 demo aircraft, that has been challenging. I planned to do a few demos on the way back to New York, finish up my local demos and fly-ins for the season, and then swap the FX-3 back for a different demonstrator aircraft later in the year.
After considering a number of dates and hand-off locations, Yankee One was headed to Dead Cow for the High Sierra Fly-In and a rendezvous with CubCrafters VP Sales & Marketing, Brad Damm. I have never spent much time west of the big rocks, only a couple of months in San Diego, and of course my time in Yakima. The trip seemed daunting and big. 2,146 miles one way in a Cub… but a 125mph cub with autopilot and comfort built in. I had watched the weather and there was a great deal of rubbish south but it seemed to stay there, so things looked good for a trip west. We eat the elephant one bite at a time and that is the trick to these big XCs. Do all you can with the weather and chop up the trip into bites. It is easier mentally also. Still, this will be 24 hours of seat time with headwinds considered, but that’s the gig.
I prepared my departure. I packed warm clothes because the desert forecast was 19 degrees at night. Not since boy scouts had I shivered in a sleeping bag in a tent. I left Saratoga County airport about 8:30 am on Tuesday and headed west. In western NY I found some downed radio transmission towers from the previous night’s weather front that pushed through. There were still some good gusts at altitude and at one point GS was only 89 mph. I made my first fuel stop in Jamestown, NY and it seemed colder with more wind than when I left home. Still some light turbulence at 4500, 3500, 2500, 1500… hell, it was everywhere! The higher I went, the slower it got. The winds finally relaxed west of Cleveland. I made my second fuel stop in Kendallville, Indiana, then paid a visit to some friends in Davenport, Iowa. That was a full day. For you guys considering these types of long trips, I suggest you get a book on tape, or do like I do and turn on Pandora or SXM Satellite radio to pass the time.
Wednesday was bright and chilly, but much smoother. With a full belly and full fuel tanks, I departed Iowa and headed for my next stop, Wahoo, Nebraska. Overflying Omaha I found the College World Series stadium. Baseball is a big part of our family life. After Wahoo the terrain slowly starts to rise in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. I climbed to 10,500’ and cruised there until reaching Rawlins, Wyoming for my next fuel stop. By now, I can see Colorado and those fourteeners have all kinds of snow and low clouds too. I fueled the airplane in Evanston and tossed it in a hanger for the night.
Looking South Through the Gap to SLC
Mixed Colors in Great Salt Lake
Thursday dawned and I had just over 500 miles to Dead Cow. My route took me right over Salt Lake City and then I had to cut south to navigate a narrow corridor with restricted airspace that lays both to the north and to the south. The sun was rising and the white snow caps to the south were lit up bright. I headed straight west and called SLC approach so I wouldn’t get a tongue lashing when I crossed that ridge at 10,500 and appeared on top of their space. They cleared me right across the Bravo at 9500’+, then vectored me south over the Great Salt Lake. This is where the trip got interesting because I have never seen the next 450 miles of terrain before.
Bonneville Salt Flats
I followed I-80 beneath me through some higher terrain, and then progressed to Bonneville Salt Flats. I had seen the Salt Flats on TV, but at 9,500’ it was wild! My next fuel stop was at Elko, Nevada. Elko is a nice little high-desert town which seemed quiet. While I was there, the chit chat turned to President Trump’s upcoming visit in two days. The TFR would likely delay my travels. I set the news aside in my mind so I could focus on completing my journey west. After fueling I had just a couple of hours left to Reno-Stead (home of the Championship Air Races) where I topped off the tanks. The high desert between Elko and Reno are a mix of very high mountains and very low, long and flat valleys. Many dry lake beds line the valley floors and the geology is quite remarkable to me. Super-deep cuts and long expanses of nothing stretch for as long as the eye can see. As I approached Reno I crossed the southern tip of Pyramid Lake, aptly named with a giant pyramid rock formation half-way up the east side. Just another on a list of many weird formations I got to see on this trip. The first half of this journey is now nearing its end and Reno is on the nose. I will grab my fuel and make my may to the High Sierra Fly-In.
Near Elko, NV
I will have to tell the story of my eastbound return another time. The highlight of course was the High Sierra Fly-In itself. You can see all kinds of great photos and video of the event online. I think everyone should experience it at least once. The local flying out there is incredible and some of the things you can see and do are very much worth the trip. I want to suggest you grab your calendar now and plan your trip to High Sierra Fly-In 2019
Dead Cow Lakebed