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For some reason I approached today with a touch of *trepidation. Flying to Big Bear is a number of personnel records for me. By the end of today I’d flown higher and further than before and as well as that, it’s also the highest airfield yet. I’m not quite sure what it was, but for whatever reason, I just wasn’t feeling the breakfast this morning.

Anyway, after telling myself to cop on and grow a pair. I set off once again for the airfield. I’d pretty much all the flight planning done the previous day, so it was just a matter of factoring in the weather en-route and at Big Bear.

I filed for 0815 local and it was pretty much that when I took off. The frequency was very busy but I finally got my chance to say my bit, I got my flight plan opened with Prescott FSS and eventually secured flight following from a busy Phoenix approach. Due to a number of restricted areas in the desert between Western California and Phoenix my route took me on a few dog legs. Overall though, it only added about ten minutes to what was eventually a 2hrs 45minute flight, pretty much as I planned. Once out of Phoenix the only radio contact I had was a handing over to L.A. Center, so all in all a very easy going and generally relaxing flight.

Being the longest flight I’d ever taking on, I was faced with two important issues the first was suddenly finding myself in serious need of a number 1 after only an hour into the flight and the second was that fuel management was going to be more critical. Forgetting to switch tanks on a 1 hour flight is bad, forgetting it on a 3 hour flight means you end up with an empty tank on one wing and a full tank on the other. I simply followed the usual practice of switching tank every half hour, so every time the clock reach either a quarter too or a quarter past I switched tank and noted the time. Simples!!

Other than that, I had a very relaxing flight. Generally listening out to what everyone else was at, including a lot of military stuff and admiring the impressive scenery. I even had some time for a little in-flight snack, although I’m not sure my cookies were packaged with the intention of climbing to over 8,500ft. Once out of the packaging though, I can confirm they’re just as yummy as at the 1000ft of Phoenix.

A fed pilot is a happy pilot. Good thing it didn't pop unexpectedly. It would have frightened the crap out of me.

A fed pilot is a happy pilot. Good thing it didn’t pop unexpectedly. It would have frightened the crap out of me.

But, it wasn’t all to be plane sailing. As I got close to Big Bear, I began to recognise some of the symptoms of mountain wave. The two main symptoms I noticed were lenticular clouds and the fact that I was suddenly getting chucked around the place. Probably light to occasionally moderate turbulence by definition, the winds aloft weren’t particularly strong, so I wasn’t expecting to get too rough a ride. It was nice to know I was able to expect it. For a bit of extra comfort, I climbed to 10,500ft, and crossed into Big Bear Lake area at shallow angle and with an escape plan, should I hit a sudden down draft. See!! I told you that mountain training would come in handy!

Just to the left of this photo is the high mountain tops that surround Big Bear. This cloud is effectively the crest of a wave of air. The wave is caused when the air is disturbed going over the mountain.

Just to the left of this photo is the high mountain tops that surround Big Bear. This cloud is effectively the crest of a wave of air. The wave is caused when the air is disturbed going over the mountain.

But, apart from this, the weather was great for the whole trip visibility was excellent, in fact, I could see the peaks around Big Bear from Blyth, which is 100 miles away. The approach into Big Bear was beautiful, the only real concern, apart from Density Altitude of course, is the noise abatement procedure they have here which mainly concerns not flying over a school which is positioned about where you would normally start the turn to base leg. I just went around it and excepted the slightly longer final.

Just after turning direct to Big Bear you can just make out in the photo the peaks off in the distance. It was much clearer with the naked eye.

Just after turning direct to Big Bear you can just make out in the photo the peaks off in the distance. It was much clearer with the naked eye.

After landing I got my first opportunity to use a self service fuel stations here, this might not sound particularly fascinating, but it was something I was concerned about. The reason being, I wasn’t sure if my credit card was going to work in the machine. All the gas stations here use self service as well, but you need a post code. Which of course I don’t have because I’ve European cards. Thankfully, the post code wasn’t required at Big Bear and fueling was no hassle. Next on the list was to close the flight plan and ring the flight school to tell them I’d made it without dinging their plane.

The pilot lounge was a really smart set up, a lot nicer than what was available in Ryan, leather couches and flat screen TVs, as opposed to an old table with a telephone in an otherwise empty room. I know where I’d prefer to get stuck. Although, Ryan wouldn’t be too bad either, if Todds was open.
There was a nice woman there who gave me the directions to the bus to get into town. The timing worked out perfectly as I only had to wait about 2 minutes for the bus, who actually dropped me off straight to the door. Cheers pal!!

It turns out the place is empty apart from me. I actually had a discussion with the two guys here about how it’s amazing that the place isn’t jammed. The fact that Phoenix hostels are doing a roaring trade at this time of year where it’s too hot to walk out side the door and a place like this that had tonnes to do, from all sorts of water sports, to hiking, downhill mountain bike parks etc. I guess the only explanation is that not many know about it. It’s a fine hostel though, in fact, see below for the view I have from the balcony where I’m currently typing from.

Not too shabby, aye!?

Not too shabby, aye!?

I asked about where’s a good place to get some grub and one of the guys suggested “The Nightclub” for a quick beer and then out the back to a place called Murrays for good cheap grub. I thought to myself, that sounds like a fantastic plan, as soon as he said pint I began to drule. Sure enough though, I forgot that I was back into California, where they seem to be disproportionately anal about IDs. The barman was sound, he’d even poured the pint before some grumpy looking bloke at the end of the bar called for an ID, apparently he was the security for the place. Who’d have thought that after 15 years of binge drinking I could still pass for 21.

Tail between the legs, I said fair enough and went out the back to Murrays. I was looking for something light, so I ordered a club sandwich. I guess I forgot America doesn’t do light, see Exhibit. (A) below.

Exhibit A - A half eating jumbo club sandwich. A tasty bit of grub, but word of caution, beware of lockjaw!

Exhibit. (A) – A half eating jumbo club sandwich. A tasty bit of grub in fairness, definitely doesn’t fall into the “light” category though.

Another day down, time for a beer I think. It’ll have to be a handy one though, long day again tomorrow.

And finally, a quick snapshot from the view on approach.

Another, great little airport.

Another, great little airport.

*Trepidation is a big word normally used by intellectuals and academics. BOOM!! This blog is getting serious!

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