1,403 mile trip to Solvang with return via the Sierra Nevada Mountains under God’s leaky parasol

Several of the members of EAA chapter 1230 (based @ Nut Tree - KVCB) planned a trip to the tourist town of Solvang in southern California.  I was invited to join in.


The town of Solvang does not have an airport, however the town of Santa Ynez near by does have a nice one (KIZA).  You can rent a car at the airport by prior arrangement.


We flew in to Santa Ynez on Friday. On Saturday we went wine tasting at a few of the many nearby wineries. Saturday evening we attended a play (Legally Blonde) at the Solvang festival theater.  Sunday morning we wandered the town visiting various shops, had brunch then departed for home.


Usually on these flights the planes stay in radio contact and often in visual contact as well.  This time I had a much different flight path so I was on my own.  I had a passenger to pickup and drop off in Redlands (KREI) – not exactly on the way!


As part of my flight planning on a long trip I always check weather with NOAA’s graphical Weather and check winds aloft using NOAA’s Flight path tool


Flight path tool showed that for the trip down, if I stayed below 1,000 ft AGL I would have a tail wind, so for much of the flight down California’s central valley that is what I did.


For the trip back, NOAA’s graphical weather showed relatively calm winds in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with some rain at higher elevations.  Rain in the summertime generally means possible thunder storms.  This precluded a flight in the highest mountains, but not necessarily in the high country to the west of them.  I chose my return path in that area, with the idea of altering course as local conditions dictated.  What I found was mostly calm wind conditions with occasional showers and much uglier conditions visible off my right wing a few miles away.  I saw one lightning strike.


On this trip, once again there were fires burning in the state – about 5 by my count.  There were TFR’s around most of these as is generally the case.


I took 140 pictures worth keeping on this trip.  A few were taken on the trip down.  A few more on the leg back from Solvang to Redlands, much of which was flown just off-shore with a good view of the beaches and fancy homes.  The majority were taken on the leg home through the desert and mountains from Redlands to the vicinity of Lake Tahoe.  At Lake Tahoe, I turn direct for home and maintained a high altitude to stay out of the heat, so there was not much picture worthy on that leg.


Here is a screen shot of my GPS track.  Click the picture if you wish to see this in high resolution.

Here is a link to a Video slide show of the 140 pictures taken along the way.  I have uploaded the video to YouTube and linked to it in this way to preserve the full HD of the content. This method also allows the viewer to see the slide show in full-screen with HD enabled.  By default YouTube may not show the slide show in HD, you need to click the gear and select that yourself.



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Comment by Mack P. Kreizenbeck on August 18, 2012 at 5:20pm

As usual, Steve, wonderful pictures!

Each and every one has a story behind it.

Thanks for sharing,


Comment by Stephen R. Smith on August 17, 2012 at 10:25am


Forced landing options are poor in rugged terrain.  They are especially bad at high altitudes where landing (crashing) speeds will be higher because of the thin air.  Occasionally you see a meadow which might be suitable.  A small shallow lake might be an option.  With the Zodiac, it is wise to keep in mind that the plane may flip upside down on you and trap you inside.

On this trip I remained between 2,000 and 4,000 AGL.  That way, if you have an engine out, you have a few minutes to pick the crash site.


Comment by Ian McClelland on August 16, 2012 at 3:42am

Another epic trrip!

What are the forced landing options like through the mountain range?

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