Awoke early to get an early start and finally got off the ground at 8:15. It was perhaps the chilliest morning at 25 degrees F. The flying was uneventful, though I did see Oklahoma for the first time and saw Texas for the first time.
But before I could land in Texas, there was New Mexico to see. Over the wind turbines that I like to take pictures of, towards the land of UFOs. Roswell, New Mexico, I was cleared to land straight in on runway 21. Land I did and realized that I was in somewhat of an airplane storage airport. Airplanes everywhere, just sitting there, some stripped of parts, some lying in wait of being sold and some just there to pass the time, and no longer will fly. As I taxied to my parking spot I noticed a sleek air force jet parked a few spots away. Yes, indeed, it was a T-38, the air force's trainer, but also NASA's plane they use for pilot proficiency. This one had the camo color scheme and was very cool up close. I cursed a good amount as I normally do when I am stimulated by the aviation and space worlds. Seeing my favorite plane was no exception.
But, alas, I had places to go and could not stare any longer. In to get plan the next leg and then call the 800 number for a weather briefing. However, before I could make much progress, I noticed too royal blue flight suits walking out the door. They were probably helicopter pilots or something. But a minute later, I took a look at the flight line. And there...parked near the air force t-38 was a gleaming white NASA T-38. My favorite airplane in my favorite service. I checked with the front desk. "Where those astronauts in the blue suits?" "Yes, they just took the courtesy car into town for lunch." You can imagine my excitement. But also my remorse. Had I been a bit quicker, I could have said, "excuse me, I just flew in myself and need to get some lunch in town. May I come with you?" I wanted to do bad things on account of my frustration of a missed opportunity. Lunch with the astronauts. Sharing flying stories. Them coming from Houston (where I’m headed) but me coming from BOSTON! Beat that.
So I would wait for their return and try to plan the next leg, though I couldn't really concentrate. In the mean time, a T-37 jet trainer of less sleekness was departing and I chatted with them. They asked the price of fuel saying, "What’s the price of fuel now? I don't really have an idea because we always just pay with the government card." My eyes narrowed in thoughts of that government card. Those lucky #@!$s. And while the astros were lunching without me, I did have a close look and took some pictures of their plane. And I ran off at the mouth.
Eventually they came out towards their plane and I jumped out of mine, making sure that I approached them not in the flight building but from my own aircraft as they were heading out to theirs, and introduced myself. Their first names: Karen and Dax. Dax's real name is Allen but his last name, which I couldn't quite get off his name tag, must have had dacks in it. I plan to look them up on NASA's website which has pictures and bios of all the astronauts. While Dax preflighted the plane, we talked and then when he was busy I talked with Karen who was already up in the back seat. She's been an astronaut since 2000, is a civilian, and has her own private pilot's license like me, and is very pretty. I told them I am hoping to be an astronaut, but I bet everyone tells them that. I eventually had to walk back to Fred as they started the two engines. Lots of swears as I watched them taxi away. and then more swears as I listened to them prepare to take off, talking to the tower as NASA 515, the number I don't know, but I’d love to have NASA as a part of my call sign. Well, "Cessna 7202Golf" will do for now.
They took off like they were on fire, and were a speck in the clouds before I knew it. Heading back to Houston. They have to keep up their flight time so they came over to Roswell, New Mexico, to have lunch. Race you back to Houston, I thought. They go at probably 700 miles per hour. I go about 110.
Before I could go, I did have to make a visit to the UFO museum. So I took the courtesy car, which happened to just have been driven by the astronauts. Yes, I operated the same vehicle as the astronauts. I be not too many people can say that. I took a quick tour, and then headed back to the airport, the aliens spacemen not being able to compare the live ones I had just met.
So into the air I went and back into Texas. I am now in Fort "John" Stockton. (I added the john) Very nice Texans came out to help fuel and tell me about the place. Good facilities, nice area, and lots of Mexican food. Went for a quick run on the golf course to get the kinks out, though I never really feel stiff when I get out of the plane. The mental stimulation must move blood to my muscles.
So that's the story, tomorrow I’m trying for an even earlier start, and make it to Texas' most southern tip and then to Houston to see the space center. Things still going very well. Nice to be in a new state. My best to all of you. Thanks for reading.
Ben and Fred
I guess it was "Dex" not "Dax"
I’m be looking for them in Houston, so I can say, "Dex, what's happenin' my man!" and then, "well, hello doctor"