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Leg 38: KGCN Grand Canyon National Park to NGC Alameda Naval Airstation

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This ATWC has been heating up.


   International interest in the baton has caused this once scenic adventure to morph into a desperate dash dodging devious devils with criminal intent ...with multiple agencies/militarys/covert operations/black ops/otherworldly agents all cooperating or conspiring to help or hinder the baton along its way.

   They say "Good Things Come in Small Packages", the ATWC baton puts a new spin on that; "Bad Thugs Come after Slim Packages", it's resemblance to a mini nuclear rod has never been so apparent since Tim's last flight, and one has to wonder if we have been hauling an Immersive Disruptive Technology around the planet, for a now Seventh round of "Testing". It occurs to me that whoever is the first to "crack" cold fission is going to lead the New Energy World...and since THRUSH is dedicated to defeating the Climate Change agenda of 'disruptive' invaders living literally deep among us, it could be a reason I've been steered into this ATWC by my once friend/customer/investor now commanding officer and string puller behind many many airhauler companies.
   But, as usual, I digress in baseless speculation and guesses...which as we know have a habit of getting me into deep deep trouble. As a THRUSH Agent still in training and learning about the web within web world in which we live tentatively, and mostly ignorantly... I am now prone to see every "oddity" as some thread woven into a conspiratorial fabric tarped over yet another dark webbed passageway to...who knows. I fear this web has so many strands one may never knows which connects to whomever sits in the center...or we may be about to fly into the spider's lair. We are all clearly on tenterhooks dodging shadows real and imagined...and thanks to overt and outmaneuvered agents like Putinfeld accidentally revealing their game by their failures, we can safely assume many "oddities" are indeed some part of a real deal.

   I imagined that this 2-legger ATWC assignment would be a simple couple of GPS flights with LOTS of views of our stunning  US Southern Desert enviorments...from Grand Canyon to Las Vegas to Death Valley, followed by a grand tour of my home area in the SF bay area...lots of views of some very very Hot tourist sites all from the comfort of a leisurely couple of air legs over "safe" (squidless ) ground. It was going to be my pleasure, I hoped, to proudly showcase these stunning landscapes for our members, and followers to this SimVenture.
But as we well know by now, simple and pleasurable is not always on the table in the ATWC. I arrived at KGCN in one of my Airhualer turboprop C208 Caravans (Not shown), a favorite workhorse hauler for small to mid sized packages when I'm working 'incognito' now as a simple hauler (previously I was "actually" a simpleton hauler until I slipped into a nest of squids...but that is a previous story...). I had planned to use this trusty bird to ride us over the Great Desert West. However when I located Tim, no doubt after a night of sleep looking better than he must have the previous day, my plans changed abruptly, before coffee even.

   Speaking of which I had arrived as promised with an insulated carafe in hand of a current roast of one of my "Captain Coffee's Coffees", this one a Rwanda Peaberry, City roasted, my green bean supplier's cupping comments claim it has notes of herbal and black teas, clove spice, caramel cookie, raw cane, molasses, and a dark berry note, body to stand a spoon in it...yum...but no good deed goes unpunished, or unappreciated as applicable. Tim, apparently not a coffee nerd like your's truly made a grimace and suggested it lacked that charcoal Dark Roast flavor he was used to, and he asked if I brought any non-dairy creamer and Splenda... ( "!?!" )...ugggh. I bet he drinks Instant coffee whilst crunching out novels over a dimly lit typewriter...a traditionalist. Oh well, the caffeine boost from the light roast pepped him up quickly, although watching him grimace while drinking a gourmet Boat'Teak roasted farm-lot hand-sorted and hand-graded nearly perfect coffee rankled just a wee bit. But worse was the wrench thrown into my "Pleasant Desert Plans" when he announced that he'd received a call this morning requesting that he escort me down to his last night's parking spot where there was to be a European officer meeting up with us, under cover, assigned as Observer to fly with me. "What?" I had received no advance notice of this routing and staffing oddity...distrust/webs/Squids!?...yeah, that escalated quick...so a quick call to Pat on the 'Satt' sorta cleared it up when he explained briefly: "Interdepartmental cooperation, take the flight plan she hands you, It's a Legit op, blah blah, do what she says, blah blah, ask no questions, fly yer arse off...blah, Clik".  I have noticed that Pat is becoming a lot less chatty now that he is my Commanding Officer instead of my Best Customer... :(

Thus we set off to the ramps to meet this legit but mystery Miss...a spare cup in tow in case she is a joe fan.
At the parking spot was a curiously unusual bright yellow bird and a small crowd of onlookers, at least one of whom was apparently trying to get up the nerve to to speak to the occupant...a stunning raven haired pilot patiently waiting for your's truly.



A Joe fan she truly was. It was none other than our own Jessica B. Pierce who was to ride along with me. My C208 was nowhere to be seen, no time to worry about it, I am assuming it has been handled by THRUSH as part of this Operation. In it's place was a very rare Nardi N-333, a restored (and hugely modified as it transpired) Italian classic amphibian, most of which were sold to customers in the USA. Kind of a Float'arri of it's day....an Italian Luxury touring Amphibian. This one was "Special": rugged'ized, up-powered, and hardened for extreme flying, while looking like a casual "Playboy toy"...a Covert Agent plane if I've ever seen one...Bond would approve if it had weapons, sadly, not. This was more in the way of a hot Get Away car.
Jessica in her seat seemed focused, and very concerned about something, but revealed nothing. I joined her in the cabin and offered the cup, gestured with the caraffe, and asked her what was up.
She just said curtly "No, Go".


Her seriousness had the hairs stood up on the back of my neck...taking a cue from Jess, wordless I hurriedly gulped the last of my cuppa joe, stashed the caraffe and the Baton in my flight bag, started up the willing motor and got going...puzzling over what was bothering Jess so mightily.


We taxiid to the runway...clearance was prompt. Jess announces after take off I am to head directly to the canyon...and climb slowly.










At the rim Jess says "Dive in".  I reply "Huh?" 



"DIVE IN". ... I descend.








Follow the river as close as possible please.


I fly my ass off.


Nothing phases Jess...she is iron.


She is tougher than the rock we are blazing through...this high G rock clinging flying isn't causing her to bat an eyelid.


I doubt I have ever tried to impress anyone so much before in my life...the deadly seriousness of her gaze focused straight ahead makes me feel as though we are being pursued by demons...I fly my ass off as if we are pursued by hell-spawn. 








I wonder what she is watching for way down here and expect laser fire...justifiable paranioa in my case...from any side canyon at any time.


My god, this is serious bizness...Armegedon? Never have a seen anyone so fierce looking. Jessica is freaking me out and the adrenalin is challenging me to fly like a banshee with tail on fire.

Nothing phases this Austrian officer...Stoic, Stern, Secretive...the intensity, the mystery, the seriousness is killing me.




"Ok...that's fine...climb out" Jess announces finally.



Phew...I have no idea what just happened, but I am sweating buckets from the physical exertion of hauling this yellow bucket at high G down low through the G.Canyon. And the view is stunning.




After leaving the cut Jess tells me that we have a pit stop just ahead.


There on the rim of the canyon is the small airfield KGCW Grand Canyon West .... an apparently empty airport at this time.



After parking Jess hands me a sealed envelope with the rest of my flight plans detailed within, and tells me to leave the Nardi and walk around the back side of the hangar to find my next ride. As I exit the Nardi Jess switches seats with me in preparation to take the Nardi to deliver it to storage nearby, thence she will head back asap to her own life and operations.

   Jess, before you go tell me if you can...what were you looking for down there, are we in major trouble, is this something to do with the baton, Putinfeld, squids, RAF/CIA/FBI/KGB...worse? You hardly said a word the entire flight. The intensity has the beejezuz scared out of me. What can you tell me if anything?
   "Oh? What? Sorry, no nothing like that so far as I know. My concentration was because I was in the middle of the world's most puzzling puzzle when they dragged me onto this observation flight...btw, you flew just fine, Very Nicely done down there in the canyon. Yeah, all I was here to observe was your flying skills in the canyon environment for reference should we require you services in future...a way to gauge what potential equipment could be sent your way for future ops. With my recommendation you should get a high equipment security clearance...Congrats?!! And sorry for spooking you.
 I am working on a 15,000 piece cursed puzzle, a puzzle with only 2 piece shapes...one is a square with a female receptor on the middle of each edge, the other is a square with a male connector on each side, any piece can "fit" to any other piece as a result, and to make matters even more puzzling, the completed image is a pile of confetti...and it is driving me mad. Ther are a couple pieces I prepositioned just before leaving the house, and I have been wondering if they are actually a match for that damned carnation/black/bit o'light blue area top right, or if  I haven't perhaps miss-classified them? Maybe they belong down on the lower right in the black/turquoise/pink section...gah...it's driving me mad. Oh never mind, I can see from your look you think I'm nutters, I get it, only puzzlers would understand...btw...did you say you have some coffee? Is it a City Roast perchance, I can't stand Dark Roast? 
(YAY!!!!! Jess gets coffee even if I don't get puzzles. I puzzle and wonder about the diversity of humans...all that intensity over one piece of a puzzle, I can't imagine.)
We chat coffee for a minute, Jess has frequented many real coffee houses around her European travels, and gives my joe a thumbs up as we enjoy the last of the carafe. Then Jess sends me, my flight plans, and the baton over to the other side of the hangar to pick up my next ride, and some familiar faces.

I head over to the backside of the hangar clutching my flying bag with the precious baton, an empty coffee carafe, as well as a change of socks and underwear of course...mom raised this pilot right.


Behind the hangar is the familiar and welcome sight of one of my favorite vintage haulers, a restored Douglas A20 Havoc in our Coffee Cargo livery...positioned here by two of my company pilots. 


   Although neither the fastest nor longest range of the US Mid sized bombers of WWII, the Havoc was noted for being tough and dependable with a reputation for good speed and maneuverability. Test pilots noted "has no vices and is easy to take off and land" "Extremely pleasant to fly and manoeuvre". We at Coffee Cargo are in complete agreement, it is one of our most requested birds by pilots...and flying slots are coveted by the old timers of the company. As well, it hauls a very profitable payload.
   Veteran company pilot Dan and up and coming copilot Jerry tell me that Pat Moran (who has been a familiar sight/presence around my companies for years long before my association with his secret organization [of which my regular employees know nothing about], and is thus very familiar and trusted by all my employees) had relayed my request to position here saying I would need a flight to 61B near Vegas. They were wondering what was going on with the Second Hand Dispatch shuttle. "Nothing much boys, I just needed a fast ride back to the Las Vegas area after some company business Pat and I are working on...As you know getting a charter out here can be a beeotch and I'm on short timing...Pat and I ferried customers around in a some rentals. We are trying to hook up an international account, some friends of Pat's...when a sudden desert hiking vaccay diversion appealed to the clients. Pat is off tramping through dessert scrub brush with them, while the rental is staying put here for Pat till they get back from their hiking trip. Leaving me stuck out here wingless and Not up for a romp through a dessert with Pat and company, so...thanks for the lift boys...I have other stuff to attend to, can't dust my heels in this dust bucket waiting on the clients to return, and needed a fast connecting flight out. ( THRUSH agents get coached regularly in Improvisational Lying...a necessary skill as a member of an organization that has to plausibly cover up the tracks of sentient squids at a moment's notice...this string of total bull crap coming out of my face was as easy as talking in my sleep.) 
We ready the Havoc and set out for Las Vegas, where my now opened and just perused flight plans tell me I am to switch planes yet again at 61B, and send the Havoc back onto paying work...all this plane juggling trying to throw would be baton thieves off of the trail. Never a dull moment even when we are trying to ensure our moments Stay dull.


Up and away...I take Dan's seat and he takes a break while Jerry and I handle this short hop.








Nearing Lake Mead/Vegas and 61B the end of the first leg of this sector.





Greaser...the Havoc as mentioned is a surprisingly gentle bird...floaty on landing and very satifying to fly. We love it especially for delicate cargos at CC.





   I send the Dan and Jerry on their way and review local flying stocks in the THRUSH database...what do we have nearby? As it turns out, we have quite a selection of aircraft cached all around the Las Vegas area, the climate is perfect for pickling our reserve fleets.



I choose this vintage F3F-2 in part because it is conveniently located  right here at 61B...and as well because I am already thinking ahead to potential routes to Alameda NAS, and very much looking forward to the next leg. :)


I unpickle and gently warm up the aged but mint condition Grumman F3F-2. The F3F was the last biplane fighter delivered to the US Navy, it served between wars. Entering service in 1936 it was an improvement over the F2F but was retired from front line squadrons before it served in WWII...it was the basis of much of the more succeful F4F Wildcat which borrowed elements of the F3F in it's design, including landing gear and fuselage family lines in common. 
This robust tank like biplane is going to be a very fun ride to my next stop...all the way to the central valley and NASA's Crow's Landing NRC for another mystery aircraft change...my flight plan from Pat merely says 'Pick up a little surprise'...wonder what that could be?


Up and Away.



A brief tour around the Las Vegas area, a bit of sight seeing as well as a minute to just run the motor, gain altitude, and ensure the unpickled motor doesn't go sour far from a field. 



It's running like a champ...onward.


Approaching Death Valley ahead I dive in, getting down low seems to be a theme this trip.





And as Death Valley is about as low as you can go, I go as low as I can go...which I wager is just a smidgen lower than You can go...unless you have a propless plane.







As I pass near Furnace Creek in Death Valley, I take a moment to take a look at this airfield which I've never visited before...just for an overview/look. I never know if something in an interesting place could make a good Airhauler base. This has plenty of parking, a bit of scenery/splash...could be a candidate. At the least for a cheap place to store aircraft inventory.



Leaving Death Valley I cross some ridges to make my way west to the the Bishop/Mono Lake area



...but before Bishop I pass a sobering reminder that bad days return...the Manzanar Japanese Internment facility.


A shameful reminder that history is repeating itself yet again. Hard to believe that we fought Nazis while we also were imprisoning innocent Americans based on their former Nationality ... and having learned nothing from that era we are now imprisoning innocent people yet again, and worse even seem to be encouraging the Nazis and Nationalists among us...beyond shameful. Even at my most cynical I never imagined that we would create Baby Internment camps to use refugee babies and children as political blackmail..."Sign the legislation or the kids disappear". SERIOUSLY?



I leave political abuses and human rights abuses behind, and approach Mono Lake. Mono Lake is a saline soda lake at least 3/4 million years old. It is a endoheic basin with no outlet, causing high levels of salt to accumulate. It has a rich ecosystem based on brine shrimp and provides habitat for 2 million migratory birds that feed upon the shrimps and the ubiquitous black flies also present (which also eat the brine shrimp).



From Mono I head west over the 120 highway towards Yosemite National Park.



This is going to be fun...I can see some iconic rock faces ahead and prepare to get a closer/lower look.



Oh yeah.




Rock and rolling.



The valley floor.



Looking back towards Half-dome, El Capitan, and Bridal Veil falls as I rocket through.



Beyond Yosemite there is still much canyon fun to be had flying down highway 140... and this brick can take it. I stick to the Merced River all the way to the valley.









Leaving the canyons at the Bagby Recreation Area - Lake McClure.



Out to the Valley now. Time to move along my itinerary and check out that surprise Pat mentions in the flight plans...Crow's Landing here we come.





Landing at NRC.



Parked and shutting down.



Pat's instructions say I'm to head to the North end of the parking ramp...I can't miss "It". I take a walk north.


Wait... I spot something familiar around the corner of that building...can that nose cone be...





With a rush of joy I discover that Pat's surprise is a remade from scratch BD5-J identical in appearance to the destroyed Little Bean, an incident that occurred during a previous ATWC adventure.


I find a note in a side pocket from Pat. 
"Hey little buddy. 
We can't have people wondering why your favorite aircraft toy disappeared without arousing suspicion...it's not the kind of thing one just misplaces. To forestall any concern in that regard, I had a work order fabricated for a "Restore and Upgrade" of your Little Bean as a cover Purchase Order so I could throw some manufacturing work to some contacts and pals at Crow. You will find this version can take more G's than you can. The wing spars are carbon I-beams, the frame is a carbon and titanium bias ply composite matrix...if you can break it in the air, you will have my complete respect...It has other features including the ability to mount mission pods internally, but we'll discuss those at another time.
Cheers, hope you enjoy it. 


I waste no time firing it up and taxiing to the runway.



Up and away in a New Old Friend.



A quick blip of the smoke generator just for the heck of it.



I could go straight to Alameda from here, but at 250+ mph...I have time for a quick lap around my local patch for some sight seeing.

Heading first towards Mt. Diablo, to pass over KLVK- Livermore. Coffee Cargo has a great many customers out of here...Livermore and Concord to the north are the only large airfields in the Eastern East Bay and our planes are in and out often.



Following the 580 straight towards KHWD-Hayward, then a left turn to the South Bay.





From left to right we can see KSJC-Mineta San Jose International in the distance top left, KNUQ-Moffet Field in the center with it's dirigible hangars, and KPAO-Palo Alto at bottom right.



San Carlos airport.



I can see from here that Halfmoon Bay appers uncharacteristically fog free...so I dash over for an overview



Of course the fog plays with me as I get closer, but it is just a thin layer and I punch through easilly enough.



A quicky blip of the smoke generator to say Howdy to anyone who happens to "recognize" Lil Bean, a frequent sight around these parts.



Passing Golden Gate Park and approaching the Golden Gate Bridge.



A bridge is always a challenge, accepted.







Lil Bean is an easy squeeze through this gap over the rooftops of Fort Baker...please DO try this at home...not over the Actual Ft. Baker. :) 



A close look at Alcatraz prison.



Angel Island, site of a former Immigration station, not shown in this scenery regrettably...the entire island is bare here and missing the US army base and all the gun emplacements...too bad, it's a very cool place to visit, picnic on, hike or bike around.  A ferry from Sausalito just across the straight is the best way to visit Angel Island.



Treasure island, and the new bright white Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge (a  former San Franscisco mayor)...I of course fly under it too.





I come out by the cargo shipping channel at Alameda.


Which puts me onto a nice base for runway 7 at Alameda Naval Air Station-NGZ...my final destination.



Down and heading for taxiway.



I pull over to an apparently dissused hangar and office here...not what it seems however, it is one of many administrative/training sites for THRUSH. We prefer old military sites as they provide great cover for our activities...as well as usually long runways that can handle most of our flying stock.



I park Lil Bean inside, give it a little hug...then I head over and check in at the "actual" pilot offices and reenter the Non-Thrush world. I find a wide couch in the pilot lounge and take a dinner break then settle down for a nap while awaiting news of Steph's arrival.


As I doze off I reminisce over the eventful and exertion filled day. Despite the change of Aircraft plans, I managed to get a decent and often Very Close look at nearly every scenic I could find, and had hella fun flying along the way. I hope the (I'm not counting) images didn't kill anyone's data plans upon opening this thread.




Edited by Captain Coffee
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BRAVO Matt :clapping:

A fantastic tour of your local area and some cracking stunt flying. 

I hope Jess didn't frighten you too much, she does that very well!




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Very comprehensive write up. :thumbup:


However I feel you may be getting mixed up between the words "serious" and "hungover" where jess is concerned. I do realise that often the end result appears to be similar.


I only request non-dairy creamer in hotter climes because, frankly, proper milk and cream tends to curdle, even when bringing along a portable fridge. I don't know who gave you the idea of sweetener (or indeed any form of sweetening), but ugh! Just . . . no.


Did you by chance waft a Geiger-Müller tube over the baton? I have my suspicions that you might want to get checked out if you kept it too close. Especially in that little mousegun of a plane you flew for the final leg. Perhaps the boss would like to issue an official company memo on the present glowy nature of our famous stick?

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Very entertaining matt, great PIREP, lots of aircraft and wonderful collection of shots.:good:


If it wasn't for the bad analogy of political issues it would have been perfect. :faint:

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Apologies to Tim_A for mis-'character'izing your Real Life coffee palate/prefs...however, you were not 'yourself' that morning when I found you in my 'story'. :P 


Apologies also for mis-characterizing my Moral Disgust as Political Issues, I did mistakenly use that word 'political'...however I should have stuck to calling them Human Rights abuses, because I can't seriously imagine that locking up children and losing track of them without any plan for how to reunite those kids with their parents is a Left or Right issue?


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Matt.. your written words are music to my ears..Rarely do i get the pleasure in my day to day of such wonderfully written narrative! So immersive..


I'm struggling with some technical issues but i will be there to collect the baton. I bloody well hope its not still 'shining'. Do i need a geiger-counter?


Can you do me a fave and bring me a good dose of your best dark blend.. caffeine is required!




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