It was barely light when we lifted off from the runway in Hilo but the air was still and it was an excellent day for flying. We actually left a day earlier than planned due to the forecast of a tropical weather system that would have entered our path the following day. There was an abundance of clouds along the entire route but nearly all were below our 11,000' cruising altitude. None touched us the entire flight and the sky above was clear and blue except for an occasional lonely contrail from a jet high above.
The clouds below were probably a blessing. They interrupted the view of all that water. Whoever coined the phrase "Keep the blue side up" was not thinking about flying over the Pacific. One cannot describe the feeling of isolation of being in the middle of 2,148 miles of nothing but the ocean. Any unusual sounds from the aircraft or engines assume greater magnitude. You continually compare the fuel flow to the fuel quantity and then check all the modes of the engine monitor to ensure that all is well. 12 1/2 hours is a long time to be in the seat of a small airplane but when there is nowhere to land below you, it is even longer. Fortunately, we were not making this flight at night.
The sun was setting behind us as the Santa Barbara coastline came into view. It was a welcome sight but there were mixed emotions. It would be great to be back in the continental US but there would be no more of the exotic destinations we so much enjoyed. A few minutes later, however, we touched down to what promised to be a much less challenging remainder of the around the world flight.
Santa Barbara is one of the finest places on earth. It is a seaside town with mountains in the background and a nice cool, dry climate. Someone once said that if anyone could find a way to make a living, they would move to Santa Barbara. Undoubtedly, many have because the entire area is much more crowded than in the past. And with the increase in population has come a dramatic increase in prices. The same harborfront hotel room where we stayed in 1966 for $40 is now $600 per night. Having already done that, we passed this time around.
To our good fortune, a Mexican Heritage Festival was in progress the weekend we were in town. There was a great deal of excitement and bright color everywhere as the sounds of Mariachis and revelers filled the streets. Maybe the best part was the delicious Mexican food that suits our taste more than that from south of the border.
Four and one-half hours into the flight
Santa Barbara Airport
Are we there yet?
Having slept for the entire duration of our previous long flight, we fully expected a similar performance from our two intrepid travelers. Not so! They were up and about with a strong desire to check out the scenery on this leg. When, unfortunately, there were only clouds and ocean to ponder for hours on end, they became restless and irritable. One hasn't lived until one has had a bear and an elephant loose in the cabin of a 6 passenger aircraft.