Picacho Peak
near
Tucson, Arizona

 


The view from up here as awesome!
(Click here for a bigger view)

Picacho

Friday morning I got up at 4 am to meet Bill Rowe and  Mo Sheldon at the McCartney turnoff near Casa Grande at 5:30.  When we all arrived, you could see Smokin' Bill and another pilot flying in the distance.  After a brief FRS "howdy", we headed toward Tucson and a small state park where Mo would be giving an interested person a introductory flight on his trike.

The prominent landmark Picacho Peak rises majestically 1,500 feet above the Sonoran Desert floor about 35 miles northwest of Tucson right on Interstate 10.  We pulled into an empty lot just across the highway from the peak and launched.  The wind was cold, smooth and steady from the South.  I began making slow s-turns up the face of the peak.  Half way up is a saddle between the main peak and a lesser one.  The air was so calm I had no reservations flying low through the saddle.  Incredible view!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then turned and continued my ascent to the top.  When I reached the top the view was breathtaking.  It's was like the back bone of some huge sleeping dragon or dinosaur. As I flew just a few feet off the very crown of the peak I noticed gliders below and in front of me. 1..2...3?...4?  Where I had expected to see only 2 gliders were 4.  Al and Mike from Tucson had come cross country 15 miles to join us!  This was getting to be a party.  I cut my throttle and glided 2000 ft down toward the desert floor across the highway where everyone else was flying.


 
(Click here for a lager view)

 

I saw Mike circle and land on a wide long stretch of  shallow arrora about half a mile from the launch area.  Al circled a couple of times and landed, too.  I began to feel pretty sure, that Mike had had an engine-out or some other problem.  I'd been up for about an hour and since I couldn't get anyone on the radio, I decided to return to the launch area and land.  After I touched down I found out I was right and Al's trike was stranded across the road and railroad track and a fence with no access for a vehicle.

 


(Click here for a lager view)

 

Bill Rowe and I took my truck and followed Al on his trike along the highway trying to find a way across desert but never were able to get more than a mile from where Al waited.  Finally, Mike C. from Tucson arrived and trudged out to Al to help bring his glider back to the road by hand.  I think they were glad to share the 4 Coronas I'd brought when we finally got the trike in the back of my truck.

From left to right - Bill R, Mike M and Mike C

 


(Click here for a lager view)

 

 Mo and I locked my trailer and his van together and after giving a vagrant in a trashed RV $10 to watch our stuff (yeah, right), We took Mike back to his car at his original launch area and then followed him to his house.  We meant to take his unit apart right away and see if the engine had seized, but we got sidetracked making his famous "String Prop Balancer" on his lathe.  I now own one of these marvels of modern science!

It wasn't until late afternoon that we got back to inspecting his unit.  We were all sure the piston had seized, but when we removed the head, it slid right off.  No piston seize!  So what had stopped the engine?  It was the 2 sets of bearings in the re-drive.  Now where do you suppose you can find PPG re-drive bearings in Tucson?  The local PPG shop?  As if!  I'm happy to announce, your local Pep Boys has them in stock.  What luck!  Looks like Mike isn't grounded after all.  Sweet news.

(Click here for a lager view)
Mo inspects the head on Mike's machine.

 

Thanks to Mo and Mike for another great adventure in Powered Paragliding!