|2004/09/03 Burning Man Day 1: Any landing you walk away from is a good landing :)|
π 2004-09-03 20:02 by Merlin in Bm, Flying
So, I'm flying somewhere above 880 to 80 (north of Oakland) right now, and it's been a fun 30mn flying over the bay (Palo Alto airport up 101 through SF, before crossing the bay around the bay bridge). I was cool to have a low altitude view of all those landmarks.
The few seconds were the engine sputured because Javier, the pilot, was running his right fuel tank empty before switching to the left, was interesting :)
The departure was unfortunately way behind schedule: Javier was supposed to call me around 11:00 or so, on his refueling stop, and by 14:30, I still hadn't heard anything. I was afraid that he wasn't able to make the flight, or forgot/broke his cell phone, or something like that. I was starting to be afraid that we wouldn't meet, and he wouldn't be able to warn me (contact time was way overdue). Then, right when I had made alternate plans (drive to SJC, take Southwest to Reno, and hitchhike), I called him a few more times, and got through once, where only he could talk to me, and I couldn't respond (quite interesting for a cell phone, since usually it's the other way around). This was really the 11th hour as it was 14:55, we were in the car leaving for SJC, and trying to catch the last plane that would work for us (16:05).
He managed to talk long enough to say "meet you at palo alto 16:15", and he was indeed there, smack at that time. After a quick partial refuel, we headed out around 16:45, which hopefully will be in time for landing at BRC before dusk (considering it's not a real airport, and the runway sure isn't meant for night landings :)
The good news is that we're now a hell of a lot further after 1H, than we would have been by car (even with me driving :)
We landed soon after in a skypark apparently (runway smack in front of a bunch of houses, some of which have planes that taxi all the way there, cool...). It was more than time for a refueling (we were indeed running on fumes), and leave quickly to hopefully make it to burning man before dusk (that sure is a lot of excitement for a day :)
I would have sent this from that airport, but my phone only picked up a TDMA signal (which makes me happy for not having a GSM only phone, but unfortunately, internet connectivity is over GSM only, so no internet. Yes, life is tough, I know :)
Oh, now is when things are getting interesting. It's 19:08, sun hasn't set yet, but it's already much darker due to the sun setting behind the mountains, and somewhat bad weather ahead (not thunderstorms though). The plane is being thrown left and right due to turbulence, and this is really going to be an 11th hour landing (i.e. vs daylight), more excitement for today :)
19:32: the sun has set behind the mountains, and about 15 more miles to go. Mmmh, this is going to be real close....
19:53: smooth landing (well, no fun, you knew that since you're reading this page :). Seeing the ground was still mostly ok, the biggest challenge was being able to spot the runway from a distance on approach, and line up with it before reaching it. I think about 5 more minutes, and we'd have been completely screwed :)
The evening after that went ok. About an hour later (making it through the gate, walking to where my camp was supposed to be and finding it, I stumbled on Amy and Hans, my buddies (and feeling thankful that I did considering that even with a Playa address, it still felt like looking for a needle in a haystack (they were about to leave too, so the timing was good)). Another good surprise was that my tent was already setup for someone else who had needed it a few days, so I was unpacked, setup and out 30mn later.
I spent the next 4H, until a bit past 02:00, to check out all the main camps on esplanade, and play the "oh, look, shiny light over there" game (go between 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock, look for lights in no man's land, beyond the temple of stars, ride your bike to it, trying not to get sucked in the patches of accumulated dust/sand, and go enjoy the random art (from pretty to very technical, to both)
After going around the different "night clubs for the night", it was just damn cold and windy (coldest night this week), so I eventually called it a night and went to bed (thank god for ear plugs :)
Oh, yeah, in case you were wondering, this is being sent over a wireless 802.11b connection, relayed by a satellite uplink to the internet, all running on generators in the middle of the desert. Technology still impresses me sometimes ;) (ok, maybe it is a tad (ok, very) flaky sometimes, but let's not be too picky :)