Saturday, May 27, 2006

Mike Hotel Acquired

The trip to the Left Coast to fetch Mike Hotel began with a voice mail message from United. "You have been rebooked . . . ." Apparently because of the storms that blew through Northeast Ohio on Thursday night, Friday morning's airline traffic was bollixed up and being rearranged.

The good news was that we'd be leaving Cleveland at 9:27 instead of 6:00. The bad news was that we'd be arriving in San Diego at 12:30 (local) instead of 10:30. Since we had to notify MBNA by 1:00 (San Diego time), that meant there wouldn't be a real chance to examine 2MH. We'd have to roll the dice and fund the loan, and hope that if 2MH turned out to be not what we wanted, we could get the money back and return it to the bank (having already made sure there was no prepayment penalty on the loan).

The wheels began to fall off the plan when the IFR Pilot was 15 minutes late picking MS up at his house. And because the road on which MS lives is bisected by a train which had apparently come through this morning, all of the local traffic was bogged down. A trip that should have taken 20 minutes from his house to KCLE took closer to 45 minutes. So we arrived at Hopkins at 9:00 for our 9:27 flight. Not good - must check in, must traverse the TSA security check minefield, etc.

Fortunately, the flight had been delayed to 9:45. This gave us just enough time to check in, send the bags through (the IFR Pilot hand-carried his logbook!), take off half our clothes so as to not set off the TSA's metal detectors, and scurry along to our gate. When we arrived, people we already boarding.

The delay in Cleveland, however, brought ominous feelings for catching the connecting flight in Denver. We tried to get some help from the flight attendants during the flight, but -- if you can believe it -- they were entirely unfriendly.

We landed in Denver and sprinted for the gate of the connecting flight. It was 20 gates away, which at Denver seemed like about a mile sprint. We must have made quite a sight: MS and the IFR Pilot trying to hurry, carrying several bags, panting like dogs from the physical exertion in the mile-high air of the Mile High City.

We made it with literally seconds to spare. We were the last two people to board that flight. And as the IFR Pilot sat in his seat and checked his voice mail, he retrieved another message from United.

"You have been rebooked . . . ." No way, sucker, got you beat this time.

And so we settled into the Economy Plus seats we had wrangled from the customer service agent on Thursday night, after having berated him and his airline for destroying our carefully crafted travel itinerary for "important business."

Anyway, we made it to San Diego unscathed. The airplane broker picked us up and delivered us to see 2MH and meets its owner, RMH.

God, is 2MH a beauty. Wonderful, like new paint. Meticulously cared for. We spent some time in the cockpit. We walked around him. We pulled the cowling and carefully examined the engine. Threw on the battery and played with the avionics. There's even a 12 v DC adapter so that we can pull the MX-20 and GX-50 from the plane and work with them at home to learn all of their features. RMH surprised us by telling us he had updated the data for the MFD and GPS. That set him back a couple hundred bucks, but he said he was "donating" it to us. Thanks!!!

RMH then took us for a short hop. MS sat in the right seat, the IFR Pilot in the back, running the video camera. We didn't do much, just a right downwind departure for a circle back to the west, overlying MYF (home of John and Martha) and then a normal, changed to short field at the last minute, landing. MS grabbed the controls for a bit, and 2MH was no worse the wear for it.

After landing, we chilled in the broker's office after having signed the final papers. MS and the IFR Pilot were the proud new owners of a 1979 Piper Arrow IV! Yipeekayeye, punk!!!

Our CFI for the trip, AW, showed up an hour or so later, having flown in after us. Although he looked brain dead, he was a trooper and saddled up with the IFR Pilot as he took 2MH for a couple trips around the pattern. MS -- chicken that he is -- was going to wait on the tarmac until we got back, but the IFR Pilot forced him to go.

Two trips around the pattern and the IFR Pilot was confident that he could land the plane without help from AW, if it proved necessary.

After that, it was time to secure a hotel room and feed our faces. The latter we did with extreme gusto. I've never seen 3 guys inhale so much food, so it looks like we've got at least one thing in common.

The IFR Pilot then retired for the night to plan tomorrow's flying. First leg with be KSEE to KCHD (Chandler, Arizona). After that, it's Chander to Dona Ana County Airport in Santa Teresa, Texas (5T6). According to AirNav, it's got cheap fuel and has a nice long runway.

Meanwhile, the MS and AW are in Tijuana. For a little cultural experimentation. Let's hope so! See you in the morning, kids.

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