Music ranks close behind food, clothing, and shelter among things humans most value. So when a pair of favorite country and bluegrass performers scheduled a concert within Flying Carpet range, I booked tickets two months in advance.
The performance would take place in Wickenburg, 60 miles northwest of Phoenix. The small desert town is renowned for its Old West character, and would offer warm respite from Flagstaff’s cold mountain winter. Sensing the opportunity for a romantic “flyaway,” I reserved rooms at Rancho de los Caballeros, one of Wickenburg’s historic dude ranches.
“What fun!” said Jean. “And our California beach weekend is just a few days later!” The next morning I encountered friends Julie and Bob Millis at the Flagstaff Airport.
“Where’s your airplane?” I asked, noting their empty hangar. “That’s an odd story,” said Julie. “Last weekend Bob and I flew to Wickenburg, where we often vacation during the winter. After parking we learned they were repaving the airport ramp, and that our plane would be moved during the process. But they apparently decided at the last moment to close and repave the runway, too. So we had to leave the plane. Bob’s driving me back next weekend to get it.”
Intrigued at our mutual connection to the tiny town, I discovered the Millises would be there during our musical mission, so we planned a pre-concert dinner. Shortly thereafter I flew Julie to Wickenburg to retrieve her plane, saving Bob the five-hour round-trip drive.
“See you back here in a few weeks!” said Julie when we parted. Prepaying the concert and lodging had its disadvantages. Even as the weather shaped up nicely for our getaway, I acquired a nasty cold.
“Surely you’ll be well by next weekend,” said Jean, hopefully. Fortunately I indeed felt better by departure day. Despite bitter cold and the need to shovel snow from the hangar, my head had seemingly cleared and I suffered only a runny nose.
Launching on a crystalline Saturday morning, we skimmed snow-frosted pinnacles of the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, photographed the old Mingus Mountain mining town of Jerome, and threaded the Bradshaw Mountains south of Prescott.
Just 50 minutes later, we descended into the warm Sonoran Desert. Wickenburg Municipal Airport lies at 2400 feet, my lowest destination since dropping Julie there weeks earlier. Our friends greeted us at the tiny territorial-style terminal.
“How was your flight?” asked Julie.
“Spectacular!” I replied. The only nuisance was my newly plugged right ear, not particularly surprising when landing 4600 feet lower than our takeoff airport. Surely it would clear in a few minutes…
Read Greg’s April Flying Carpet column, “Lend Me Your Ear.”
Top photo: Historic Jerome, Arizona, on Mingus Mountain between Flagstaff and Wickenburg. Upper right: Jean at the Wickenburg Municipal Airport terminal, Arizona. See more photos here.
©2013 Gregory N.Brown
(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)