Today started a long time ago, in a faraway land. We arose well before the birds in little Beatrice (pronounced Be-AT-tris), Nebraska, got out to the airport, admired the windsock sticking out at rigid attention, piled our bags in Ms. Lima, and got on our way to the starting line at Alliance, Nebraska.
Headwinds made it a slow trip, but really rather pretty, under deep blue sky sprinkled with a very few little puffy clouds. Even considering our decision to get a bit of gas in Broken Bow, we got to Alliance with a surprise hour and a half to spare, having forgotten about Mountain Daylight time. The people of Alliance and the Nebraska 99s put on an amazing show of hospitality for us — great sandwiches, homemade cookies, chips, soda pop, fresh fruit — just super. If we’d had more time there, we would definitely have had to go visit the world-famous “Car Henge.” Google it.
We took advantage of our low race number, lined up, and were number-three off the field. That was the last thing we did right for a while…the Alliance-to-Great Bend first leg was, shall we say, a ‘learning experience.’ But we enjoyed a good tailwind across the grasslands of western Nebraska and Kansas, and joined the parade into Great Bend. Oh. THAT landing light. Oops. Oh, well. Did I mention how terrifying it can be to sit in the right seat while the airplane you occupy hurtles at the end of the runway much too fast and much too low? No flies on Linda’s flying — she’s very good at this thing. All the same, airplanes are usually supposed to slow down as they near the end of the runway, not keep on going as fast as they can, only a couple hundred feet above the asphalt. More great hospitality, good snacks and cold beverages provided by Kansas 99s and Great Bend residents. This time on departure, we had the cockpit festooned with sticky note reminders, and took special pains to brief the procedures in excruiating detail. I think it worked — or at least I hope it did.
The next leg crossed high plains and near-desert, poking along with a bit of a headwind, and amazingly empty countryside. Miles and miles and miles without so much as a steer in sight. Roads were even a rarity. Borger, Texas, showed up on schedule, though, with the biggest oil refinery in the United States on its northern edge. Also, we learned, it’s home to a ‘real hi-tech bowling alley’ and the biggest movie theater in the Texas Panhandle. We’re likely to miss out on those attractions, because our day is very much over.
More fun tomorrow as we head for Norman, Okla., and El Dorado, Ark. We will probably have a fairly early start, as the Borger residents are looking at a high of 105 tomorrow. Couldn’t have been much over 99 when we got there today. Dear townspeople have gone out of their way to get us to hotels, to restaurants, and back to the airport at ungodly hours tomorrow morning. We’ve had doors opened, luggage carried, homemade cookies by the many dozens, and good stories of local interest. That’s probably been the best thing for me is the chance to meet so many truly fine people.