Woody Allen: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
So I had a plan to fly down to the convention. I’d picked a route, I had the time off to make the trip. So how did it go.
Meet Michael, Nadine and Oscar
Weather. So who are Michael, Nadine and Oscar? Turns out they are Ercoupe hating storms. These storms were expected to send some very Ercoupe unfriendly weather to the area where the convention was taking place. Ugh!
So I needed to make a last minute change of plans. I would fly to the Phoenix area on a commercial flight. I would rent the most fun reasonable priced rental car and drive to the convention. So at least I would meet a bunch of Ercoupe owners, see the space port, eat some great New Mexican food. I could get my FFZ hangar inspected. Hang out with some friends and family. There is also one of the most amazing airplane collections in the Tucson area. It would still be a great trip. Was it, let me share the trip as it unfolded and you can decide. Spoiler, it was!
First thing I needed to do is rent an interesting car to drive. The choice I was offered when I booked the rental was a V8 Ford Mustang. That sounded fun. When I landed at the airport and got to the rental car counter I discovered they had a 4 cylinder convertible Mustang. I am sure a fun car but not what I wanted. We faced some ugly weather so a top down road trip seemed sub optimal. We haggled a bit and a V8 Dodge Charger was located. Here is that fine ride:
I had a few days in the Phoenix area to hang out with my family, visit some area favorites and get my hangar at FFZ inspected.
Seafood in the Sonoran Desert
The first was a dinner with my sister, brother, my mom and aunt to celebrate some birthdays and just generally family fun. We ate at a Scottsdale favorite of mine. The Salt Cellar:
If you are in the area and want some great seafood check this place out.
Fun At Falcon Field
The next day it was time to meet the folks at FFZ and let the make sure I didn’t have anything in my hangar that didn’t belong there like a tank (yes at one time there might have been a tank in there, but that’s another story) or a drug lab (No, I have never had a drug lab in my hangar but the airport did find one in the row of hangars I am in after the occupant was found on the taxiway in front of the hangar trying to put out a flaming mattress, we also had a hangar at FFZ full of ammo that was disovered when it caught fire and the fire fighters had to delay fighting the fire from the rounds going off!).
So here is what the airport folks saw when they looked at my hangar. A workbench, some shelves and the wings from an Icarus V ultralight:
That only took 30 minutes and I was good for another 6 months. That left plenty of time to visit the Commemorative Air force hangar at FFZ. This is the home of Sentimental Journey, a beautiful B-17. Also many other interesting planes. If you are in the area you should definitely visit. Here is a little of what I saw while I was there:
More excellent Food!!
I still had two more dining experiences I wanted to enjoy in the area. The first was a New Mexican style restaurant in Mesa, AZ. Los Dos Molinos. This restaurant is related to the first one this family started in Phoenix nearly 100 years ago:
The food was simple outstanding, More about that later in this article. The second AZ dining experience I wanted was going to wait until I get back from Las Cruses.
The first leg of the Road Trip – Big Airplanes and Alarming signs of Failure
What did I mean by “alarming signs of failure”? A secondary goal for me in this trip was to scout the parts of AZ I was going to be driving through for potential retirement locations. Sadly what I saw was several failed housing projects and malls. Also the “charm” I remembered around the Wilcox area just didn’t seem there for me this trip. So my retirement down in AZ seems less a plan. I guess when I get closer to that I will have to revisit the area.
The first leg of the road trip would take me through Tucson with a stop at the Pima Air & Space Museum. This is an amazing collection. They are next to the Davis Motham AFB airplane graveyard. They had made a deal where when a plane that they didn’t have yet was brought to Davis Motham for storage they were allowed to tow one to the museum. They have one of almost everything and several one of a kind aircraft there. All the planes are displayed to you can go right up to them so everything is incredible accessible. This is a must see for every aviation enthusiast. If you have the time they also maintain an ICBM silo nearby you can tour. Here are a few shots from my visit:
I hadn’t even gotten to the convention but I already saw an Ercoupe!
The weather so far was excellent and I was beginning to wonder if I should have flown Woodstock down after all. As I got closer to the AZ border that began to change. I could see clouds and there was wind. Once into New Mexico the clouds turned into a solid ceiling and the altitude of the base grew lower. At one point I expect it was less than 200 feet. There were now patches of rain. Some quite intense. The Charger was proving to be a pleasant if somewhat uninspiring competent driver so the miles flew by. I was soon in Las Cruses and at the Hotel.
The Car was the Right Call
I checked in to Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces just in time for the opening gathering. I found 15 or so convention attendees all sharing that many folks were not there yet as the weather had stopped most everyone. Some folks were stranded frustratingly nearby. Often less than an hour by coupe away. Everyone there was already in the area or had come by other means.
Saturday – Wind – Gliders – Frito Pie
So we all gathered at a local EAA chapter hangar Saturday to try and recover what we could of this convention. A few coupe had arrived but the air rally planned for Saturday clearly could not be held. So we built a few hand launch gliders and competed on a course set out on the taxiway. My prowess with toy gliders server me well! I was awarded 2nd place!
We were then treated to a lunch for Frito Pie. For folks not familiar with this treat it is made by pouring chili into an open bad of Fritos.
Frito Pie is interesting. I think it very much depends on the chili. I enjoyed it although I do not remember if the chili had beans. This for me is criminal. Proper chili DOES NOT have beans!!!
So it was back to the hotel. I had met a few Ercoupe folks the previous evening and we decide that night to go find the best New Mexican meal we could. We settled on La Nueva Casita Cafe. We had a wonderful meal (but not the best New Mexican style Mexican food on the trip), It was a great evening with new friends. Now we still had some fun ahead. Spaceport and the final banquet. Here are two new to Ercoupe friends enjoying our night out:
Space What a Place
So a bus had been arranged for us to go the Space Port since a lot of us did not have our planes there. We got the news we did finally have some arrivals once there were some break in the weather. So there would be Ercoupes at the Space Port. Sadly the money I spent for Woodstocks slot was wasted. Oh well. About the Space Port.
Spaceport America is a purpose built facility that will serve as the home of the Virgin Galactic space tourism business. It has a HUGE runway and a HUGE hangar large enough to house two of the launch vehicles.
They also have facilities for other space activities. Companies are testing all manner of rocket stuff there. At some point they hope to put in launch gantries and a tank farm for fuel. When we were there none of that was there so it was a giant hangar and a long runway. They showed us the empty launch control center and the most impressive fire fighting gear. One interesting thing was there were cell phone jammers in the area around the spaceport. So no cell service. If you are an engineer and looking for a new gig they told us they are hiring!
So we go to the facility and they started the tour. It was sort of an imaginary tour. Imagine a cool thing there, and soon there will another cool thing here, and after that we expect to have some cool stuff to see over yonder. Eventually the Ercoupes arrived and we took a lunch break. We had some sandwiches, chips and soft drinks. Here are the coupes, I’ll leave the sandwich to your imagination:
So we went back to the hotel. I went out the airport to look at the coupes that did make it. I may be bragging but I would absolutely put Woodstock against any of the classic coupes that attended. I do wish I had been able to show him off!
The only remaining event for the convention was the banquet and awards ceremony. They were having this at the El Paso War Eagles Air Museum.
This was an interesting collection and worth a visit. So here was my final for this trip chance to have some New Mexican Mexican food. A local restaurant had been hired to cater the event. I wish I could say it was amazing but it just wasn’t. Some awards were handed out and some details of next years convention as well as talk of Oshkosh 2019. The it was back on the bus and back to the hotel.
My final thoughts on the convention is Ercoupe folks are awesome although this is not a young community. I was towards the younger range of attendees. I was also sad to see very little likelihood of other west coast club events soon. It does seem the “center of gravity” for the club is east of the Rockies. I also was happy to see Woodstock is an excellent Ercoupe. I can rightly be very proud to own him. I have to say I am attempting to try and spark some life into West Coast Coupers with little success to date.
I left the Hotel around 9:00 AM. I was scheduled to fly out of Phoenix Sky Harbor around 7:00 PM. That seemed like plenty of time. I wanted to drive through Coolidge this leg as that remained on of the areas that I thought could be a retirement location. The drive back went well but I found major traffic revisions along the way so I did not have as much time once I got back to the Phoenix area. That magical spark I once had for the Coolidge are also was no longer there. I had only one thing remaining to complete this trip. The one last food I craved that cannot be found in the Pacific Northwest. A WHATABURGER!!!!! So I get my wonderful regional burger of the gods. I said bye to my mom at her Scottsdale place and headed to the airport. Turned in the rental car and I was on a place back to Seattle.
What it Worth it?
YES! I caught up with friends and family, ate to great food, some quirky regional food, had a great road trip, met some awesome folks and won a trophy!! What I learned is weather is a thing of you are trying to travel by small plane. I learned you can find amazing New Mexican food outside of New Mexico (sadly not in Seattle that I am aware of yet!) I reminded myself how much I love that Texas creation that is the WhataBurger. I also decided you would do far worse than a Hemi V8 Dodge Charger as a car for a road trip.
With this entry I am closer to caught up on the adventure that is life with my Ercoupe Woodstock. Coming up is my ADSB rebate tale, the 2019 Aviation Conference and my first failed 2019 Ercoupe oganizing. My BFR. Woodstock’s last Annual. The Concrete fly in. The Arlington Fly in. And some minor squawks and a tire issue with Woodstock. So much more to come!