Mexico to Nevada solo in an open seat Gyro!

BEN S

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This is going to be a long post, sorry, there is much to tell. I had taken a week off from work before going to a contract in Colorado. I had intended to make this a week of gyro flying as I wouldn't be able to bring my rig with me and won't be flying my gyro for about two months.
I gave a lot of thought to what I wanted to do, it had to be memorable enough to tide me over! I started off by going to the AZ PRA chapter 15 "fly-out" with my wife and son in San Manual, AZ. It was an awesome trip, with Mark and Britta and Carl being great hosts as usual. I got some pics on the second day when we all decided to fly to Benson, AZ. Coolest courtesy car at an airport ever! The flight was high, hot and long and really beautiful. It got me thinking again about doing a really long trip in my gyro. I already knew I wanted to be at lower altitude than Benson was cause I had some real difficulty getting off the runway after lunch. I'm larger than I should be at 218 lbs and am still flying my trusty 503 in a rig that weighs 340lbs.
I decided to head north and follow the mighty Colorado River, that way if I got lost I could find the river and civilization (gas stations).
I prepared for the trip for two days, thinking what should I bring, it has to be minimal, but survival gear was a must, water obvious...but what else?
I packed a camel back with two spark plugs and a wrench, a gun (shh don't tell those Californians) a pair of underwear two chargers for the phone and icom radio.
In my flight suit was a sectional and my aircraft papers just in case some overzealous FAA goon decided to ramp check me. And a kneeboard that I had made up with all my freqs and runway pictograms so I could look like a real pilot when entering the airports. I had already called and verified that I would be able to buy avgas which I was planning on using.
I departed Yuma and headed north to Blythe (KBLH) through some truly beautiful and inhospitable country, but nothing I wasn't used to, I live around here.
I had a nice tailwind and made it to Blythe with a couple of gallons left which was nice as this was the longest leg (supposed to be, anyway) about 55 miles.
I refueled and took off for Parker (P20) which ended up being a complete black hole electronically! I couldn't get a satellites on my GPS even though it was out in the open! I landed on a farm road to get my bearings and the gps said to keep heading North East, but as soon as I was airborne again, no reception! I had to put it down AGAIN this time near a highway patrol station to get an idea of where to go. I finally found the airport and fueled up.
If you look at a map the mountain I had to fly over/around is called the Whipple mountains...well standing there it looked a whole lot bigger than the map made it seem, no way was I going over it so I opted for the western route which brought me to some of the most barren open desert I've seen in a while. Following HWY 95 seemed like a smart idea so I did.
I cleared the mountains at the far end and started my decent into Needles (KEED) which for having a beautiful runway or two was the single most barren airfield I've been to ...ever! I used the self serve pump and took off without ever seeing a soul.
From there I headed to Sun Valley (A20) for my final stop, I had gone there a few years back to get my test for PPL so I was familiar with the airport. just over the river is the border with Nevada, so I flew over the river and got waves from some partiers on a pontoon boat. I then landed at Sun Valley an borrowed the courtesy car to go stay at the Avi casino.
So far tiring, hot and at 40 mph ground speed long, but no problems, except that after Needles I noticed one of my EGTs was lower than normal,but the engine was running fine so I kept going. Once I landed I saw why, one of my spark plug caps had given up the ghost and was just laying there not connected! Spooky, but not the luckiest I've ever been...getting that fixed was more trouble than it should have been, we had to snag it from a Skidoo (looks different cause its waterproof) because the local motorcycle shop didn't have any.
At this point the easy ride was OVER! I'll condense it for those with eye strain...was awakened 1 hour after going to sleep by my local cops who fearing the worst had found my truck and trailer out all day called to see if I was alive, problem was I thought their call was the alarm and got up and dressed!:( took awhile to fall asleep again). Got up at 4:30 am to get to airport for 5am depart and promptly got the FIRST flat tire! my nosewheel tube got pinched on the side because of lack of air pressure, but I had to wait till 7am for a mechanic to show up. got fixed and finally left.
Strong tailwind to Needles got fuel and decided to followthe river to Lake Havasu for a change of scenery...BEAUTIFUL but then again was that damn Whipple mountain! I went around the East side and through some SERIOUS rocky cliffs and valleys! (ADM alert...not possibly the smartest decision) but boy was it beautiful, tall peaks all around me and rock spires everywhere!
Made it to Parker no problem, got fuel and then off to Blythe..DAMN GPS ACTED UP AGAIN....took a few minuets to realize I was going the wrong direction..not lost mind you, just turned around as us sportsman say.
Made Blythe by 11:00 and heat and winds coming up.
Had to put on the two plugs which scared me cause they were ORANGE! Turns out avgas does that, but I didn't know!
Go to take off and BLAM front tire flat AGAIN, now I know what your thinking...screwed up the repair...NOPE, DAMN GOAT HEAD STUCK RIGHT IN THE CENTER!!!! (for those of you who have no idea what a Goathead is, consider yourselves blessed, for those who live in the south west, ever had your dog bring one in and leave it on the carpet near your bed just waiting for you to get up barefoot in the morning? You know its not ALWAYS illegal to shoot a dog is it?)
Got the tire fixed AGAIN (thanks Rudy) and departed for home.
ADM alert here is where I started to make a bad decision regarding fuel, but let those of you who have never used up your safety net cast the first stone! suffice to say with the headwind I was on fumes by the time I got home, but I could see the damn truck and runway from here!
Well there is obviously so much more I could talk about but since it was a solo trip they will just be memories for me to keep as mental photos.
Thank you Sportcopter for making a machine that was an extension of my desire to go somewhere, now about those front wheels!!!!!

PS in the first pic see my forehead? walke right into the darn rotors, hows that for an omen!
 

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All_In

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Hi Buddy!!!

I heard about part of your adventure from Dave at the meeting tonight.
But reading yours is so much better.

Way to go cross-country Bro!!!!!!

Now you be a travel'n man!!!

Don't do that low fuel trick again... when you land on road an drive her to the gas station on a regular basis!

Bad Ben!!!! Bad!

The rest is just part of the adventure but we got to get you a new GPS or go back to dead reckoning by heading and time to next way point.

What a TRIP!!!! That is what I'm talk'n about thanks for sharing!
 

Mike484

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Great story, there's some really good people out that way, good to see you got to spend some time with some of them.
 

BEN S

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Mike,
more time than I would have preferred! Mostly with the tire mechanics!
John,......come on now you...YOU gonna tell me you wouldn't have chanced it to your airport when it was in sight?
I know it was dicey, but its a gyro...I could have landed and walked to the truck....
Ben S
 

GyroDoug

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Ben,

Great Story. Glad to hear it ended well. We need to do more of that kind of flying except do it as a flock of Gyros so we can share the experience with others. I hope to get to fly with you some day on that kind of adventure.

I know you won't have your Gyro with you but you should consider driving over to Utah for ROTR in June and joining us for some good Gyro fun. (You'll only be one state away, that's an easy days drive and it's on a weekend!) We will have some new Gyros you've never seen before and some you can get a ride (or training) in, so you could still get some Gyro Flying in while your here. I hate to see you go two whole months with nothing! :)
 

All_In

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...
John,......come on now you...YOU gonna tell me you wouldn't have chanced it to your airport when it was in sight?
Ben S
Well as you can land almost anywhere in Yuma I just might have too! But don't tell anyone! OK?
 

BEN S

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hit em so damn hard I'm not sure which stop vibrating first, my teeth or the rotors!
Thats what I get for setting up in pre-dawn light!
Ben S
 

thomasant

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Nice description of your flight. Seeing the first picture, not a bad omen really. I think you are lucky you got hit on the forehead and not the teeth; else you would have ruined that good smile.
 

ckurz7000

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Great trip and nice adventure. Do you enjoy the afterglow of such a trip as much as I do?

-- Chris.
 

BEN S

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Which "afterglow"?, if you mean the quiet introspective smile of accomplishment, yes I sure do. To continually push and expand my boundaries and limitations to see what I am capable of and pulling it off successfully is what its all about!
I would love someday to cross the country in the same way, but I think a different machine is in order! The 503 while reliable and simple is just not enough engine! I had such a cramped flying position because of the lack of any storage space.The Camelback was worn backwards on my front and off to the side so the stick had full range of motion. my kneeboard was taped down so the wind wouldn't lose things,(I actually DID lose my only current sectional just outside of Yuma!)
But this is probably old hat to you having crossed the country in a gyro already! I'm going to do it someday, and hopefully with friends....
Ben S
 

Arnie Madsen

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I really enjoyed all the details of the flight Ben S. , all your good planning , all the things that go wrong in spite of good planning , and the thing that went as planned.

I really like the airport car too .... at first glance I thought it was a 1953 or 1954 Ford , but closer look it is actually a Dodge ..... some of those early Dodge's have a Hemi . Makes me want to visit the airport and go for a drive.

Hard for me to be brief Ben .... just want to say I really enjoyed your article and the pictures. Great reading of the real thing. Thanks.
Arnie
 

Kevin_Richey

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Nice adventure!

Nice adventure!

You get to have all the fun in the sun while many of us are slaving away in the salt mines, wishing we were doing what you are!

BTW, thank you for sharing all the details. The forehead shot especially!

We've got to go along on some of your future trips, Ben!
 

Resasi

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Thanks for that Ben, I enjoyed reading about your experience. To my mind what we fly gyros for, to be able to get out there into the boonies, hopefully with a friend on another gyro but failing that to do trips like that.

Perhaps without the flat tires!
 

MMorgan

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Great story Ben...being from south Louisiana we only see flat land here so it is my dream to go out your way and do a trip like that.

Last fall I did go up to north Arkansas and got to fly around the mountains but they are nothing like the mountains out west.
 

BEN S

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Thank you all for the nice comments. Would LOVE to organize a group flight with all of you!
I'm off to Colorado now....on a commercial jet:(
Ben S
 

GyroDoug

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Don't forget to come see us in a couple weeks (at ROTR). I'll bet you could even bum a ride with one of the CO. guys if you wanted to. Hope to see you soon.
 
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