The Liberty Gazette
May 5, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: What do you get when you mix two pilots with a couple of unexpected days off work in the middle of the week that are not contaminated by rain and thunderstorms? Airway trip!
After making a quick assessment of where to go we chose west and tossed a few things into bags. Soon the Elyminator’s wheels were up and we turned the nose to 290 degrees on the compass. The flat lands below began to change shape and character, first becoming low rolling hills, then a few breaks, then large rugged slopes off plateaus, and even bigger breaks and canyons in a volcanic landscape. West of Plainview where we stopped for fuel, stockyards with covered silage mounds dotted the landscape. As though the land were taking steps, it’s elevation gradually increased, bringing us closer to the ground until higher we climbed. From our lofty perch we could see well ahead as we crossed the plains. This is an area I know from the westerns I read by Louis L’Amour and Luke Short. I could picture story characters Orin and Tyrel Sackett somewhere below riding herd or hunting up trouble. How would it have been for those adventuresome souls as they inched across that ground?
If one flies through the mountain passes the polite and neighborly way to fly over the Indian reservations is to climb to 12,500’, but with the wind howling through those passes we elected to hug the mountains and take the longer way around. As we crossed the lower ridges of the Rockies heading into the valley near Santa Fe I pointed out the Pecos River and all the lands in Lincoln County. That’s where Billy the Kid rode and the Lincoln County wars took place. We had climbed to over ten thousand feet and were looking up at the still snow-capped thirteen thousand foot peaks as we turned the corner and headed up the west side of the eastern most range, crossing the reservations Tony Hillerman depicted in his Jim Chee novels. Destination: Taos.
Linda: Sometimes the best adventures are the unplanned ones. Last week’s impromptu trip goes down as a win.
An airport is a community’s front door, and an airport manager is often a transient pilot’s first impression of a town; Taos didn’t disappoint. We called Taos’s airport manager Kino before departing and he said he’d see to it we had transportation and a place to stay, and looked forward to meeting us. As we taxied toward the ramp Kino came over the radio with a warm, friendly welcome to Taos, while Mike, the Hertz agent on site, brought a car over to our plane and had it open and ready before we even shut down the engine. Kino and Mike enjoy good rivalry bantering as former Air Force and Navy pilots, respectively.
Into town we ventured, first to check in at the Don Fernando hotel. The crew there served us well with a clean and modern spacious room, at the "pilots’ special rate". There wouldn’t be much time to check out the galleries and shops in the Plaza so we hurried to find a quick bite to eat before they rolled up the streets. We found the area to be cute and quaintly New Mexico, but with some of the shops too commercialized for our taste. Then we stepped in to a place to find extraordinary artwork by an inimitable artist. We can’t wait to share what happened next, so tune in to this space next week for more on the amazing Taos adventure.