The Liberty Gazette
June 26, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: This year the Sport Air Racing League is sanctioning three races in the Pacific Northwest, giving us ample opportunities for scenic trips. The Great Northwest Air Race in Ephrata, Washington would bring us close enough to visit one of Linda’s sisters in Bellingham, and my mom and sister in Salem, Oregon. Rounding the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, circumnavigating thunderstorms and forest fires, we didn’t get as far the first day as we’d hoped due to a vacuum pump failure, which affects a couple of instruments. But good fortune was with us over Midland. There happens to be an aircraft mechanic there and he happened to have a vacuum pump. The two-hour delay was just short enough that we were able to get back in the sky before a big dark storm moved in. A hotel in Safford, Arizona would get our business that night, because we couldn’t quite make it to my brother’s house in Boulder City, Nevada. But we did stop in for a quick visit the next morning before continuing north through the Basin and Range region along the Nevada-Utah line, a tailwind scooting us by "Area 51" on the left and the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats on the right. Linda was amazed with the beauty of our next fuel stop, Twin Falls, Idaho, a farming community that from the air looks like a landscape artist’s dream.
Linda: Boulder City to Twin Falls was my leg to fly. Soon after departure our flight provided excellent views of Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the Salt Flats, and Wheeler Peak as we flew by Great Basin National Park. But before this leg was over we encountered considerable turbulence in the mountains. So much so I had to throttle back because strong bumpiness can be bad for the airframe. Updrafts sent us climbing unintentionally, then downdrafts answered with equal force. We got the little Cheetah up to almost 13,000 feet and the new engine performed exceptionally well. Climbing over mountain ridges we darted left and right to avoid building thunderstorms, and when we could finally see flat land ahead I felt some relief from the work it had been keeping the airplane shiny-side-up. The small hill between us and the Twin Falls airport eclipsed the view of the runway, but we knew it was there, just beyond the hill. I couldn’t help but chuckle when a pilot a few miles ahead of us radioed the Twin Falls tower and explained he would circle back around because he’d flown over it without seeing it. Must have been that hill.
Mike likes mountains and desert; I like farmland, and this trip offers dazzling scenery of both. Twin Falls is home to that part of the Snake River where Evil Knievel did one of his stunts many years ago in a rocket-powered motorcycle. The river’s carvings into the earth have created a spectacular image. Twin Falls is indeed a pretty place – the kind that could make a writer conjure up an dramatic tale, or a painter sit for hours on the hills to try and capture it’s striking beauty.
Mike: Catch up with us here next week, and we’ll share more about the ups and downs of our journey west. Until then, blue skies.