The Liberty Gazette
January 14, 2014Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: The week from Christmas to New Year's offered some time to get away. With weather in some parts behaving wretchedly, we pledged to go where the sun was shining - westward ho!
First order of business was to make good on a promise to a young niece and nephew in Pflugerville who were eager to take a flight. The children enjoyed their aerial sight-seeing tour, a first for them, after which we headed west with no particular plans. The afternoon spread across the West Texas plains, the last hour of the flight extending past sunset, with residual light shining upon Guadalupe Peak for 50 miles. We ended our day in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where fellow air racer Seth Baker gave us a warm welcome, a couple of meals, and a pleasant send-off in the morning.
Along the playa just west of Lordsburg, New Mexico some areas were still soggy from recent rains, but the Peloncillo Mountains stood proudly along the Arizona-New Mexico line. There, in Skeleton Canyon, Geronimo surrendered to the United States Cavalry. While it was rainy and cloudy back in Liberty, we were soaking in the sunshine, and my own personal historian and geographer offered thoughtful narratives about the areas below as we took turns flying.
Mike: The Chiricahua Mountains, like others in the Southwestern U.S., are surrounded by arid deserts. I’ve climbed these mountains and find their nickname, "Sky Islands," appropriate because with gains in elevation the temperatures decrease and vegetation turns green. Near the top stand pine trees up to 70 feet tall. Flying over the foothills at 8,500’ those pines at their highest point were still higher than we were.
Pushing into the headwind, further west we discussed Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains to our left, then crossing a ridge into the Tucson area we turned toward Phoenix.
After a night in the Valley of the Sun, Flagstaff seemed to be calling. Our friends the Strayers welcomed us with warm hearts and homes and good food. Driving out to their remote property I realized how much I missed mountain air. After joining them for worship services Sunday morning we headed for Boulder City, Nevada, past the southern end of the Grand Canyon for a quick visit with my brother and his family.
Benson, Arizona, a place familiar to us, offered a good stop for the next night. With the airplane tied down we took the courtesy shuttle to the hotel, while unbeknownst to us Seth had flown to Benson too. His text message early next morn admitted the only reason he didn’t hide our plane in a hangar and leave a treasure map on the ground was because he wouldn’t be there to witness our surprise.
Roy Jones runs the Benson Airport and sets a great example. With his wife, he’s raising five kids on the airport, managing the business, giving flight lessons, helping people. And he offers a fuel discount for a clean joke he can tell his kids.
The next morning’s flight took us over Reserve, New Mexico, to Albuquerque for lunch, and into Santa Fe in time for New Year’s Eve.
The first day of the new year we reluctantly headed back to the real world. The 57-knot tailwinds across the Rockies created up and down drafts we felt over 160 miles downwind, but shot us quickly home. We agreed, Gypsy Week should happen again.