Turboprop coast to coast to coast with youngsters

A friend wanted to be dropped off in Bend, Oregon and not witness the inevitable mask disputes of commercial airline travel. We loaded up the extra seats with family members for the following route:

  • KBED (Boston area)
  • KGYY (Chicago)
  • KRAP (Mt. Rushmore)
  • KBDN (Bend, Oregon)
  • KHWD (San Francisco area)
  • KBVU (Las Vegas)
  • KBWG (Bowling Green, Kentucky)
  • KGAI (Washington, D.C.)
  • KBED

It was an 11-day trip total and my main take-away is that this is too short if the goal is to show children the United States. Even with a reasonably fast airplane, three weeks would make more sense and be a better use of dinosaur blood and CO2 footprint.

Late fall weather in the U.S. is pretty ugly. On a lot of days roughly half the country was covered with airmets for turbulence and icing and the occasional sigmet for severe turbulence or thunderstorms. Morning of our departure from Boston (ignore the route):

We spent three days getting out to Oregon in order to avoid surface winds gusting up to 48 knots in South Dakota. We left Bend a day earlier than planned in order to avoid strong winds and severe turbulence. We stayed an extra day in San Francisco for the same reason. We departed Las Vegas a day earlier than planned in order to avoid forecast thunderstorms and snow over the Rockies. The Pilatus PC-12 is a good airplane, but we would have needed a plane capable of cruising at FL430 or FL450 (e.g., Phenom 300) to avoid the turbulence and travel in guaranteed comfort on a fixed schedule.

The boys are 5 and almost 7. Their firsts in Chicago:

  • International Style (we did a walking architecture tour)
  • A Picasso sculpture used for skateboarding (why hasn’t Picasso been canceled and the sculptures/paintings sold to the Chinese and Russians?)
  • A massive Chagall mosaic
  • The Art Institute, especially the miniature rooms and arms/armor
  • A protest (“Trump/Pence Out Now!”)

(Central Camera, boarded up after losing $1 million in inventory during the BLM protests:


Firsts in Rapid City, South Dakota:

  • seeing Mt. Rushmore
  • meeting some Native Americans (other than Elizabeth Warren)
  • seeing the statues of U.S. presidents all around downtown (Gerald Ford was a big favorite because his statute includes a dog)
  • staying at the historic Alex Johnson hotel
  • breakfast at Black Hills Bagels

Speaking of President Ford, the hotel puts him right next to Gene Simmons of Kiss on the wall of famous guests:

In Bend, Oregon:

  • seeing snow-covered Rocky Mountains (from the plane)
  • Walking up Pilot Butte and along the Deschutes River
  • Mercedes crew car
  • Mount Shasta (way out)

We coincidentally parked said crew car right in front of a candy store!

In San Francisco:

  • Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge crossings
  • Urban sea lions (Pier 39)
  • Redwood trees (Muir Woods)
  • Pacific Ocean (Cliff House)
  • Bison herd (Golden Gate Park)
  • Conservatory (Golden Gate Park)
  • Science Museum
  • gauntlet of hundreds of homeless lining both sides of the street as in a Zombie movie (near the Bay Bridge ramps)
  • SFO and San Mateo (visit to 6-month old cousin)
  • Nob Hill (Mark Hopkins hotel)
  • Union Square (crazy guy screaming continuously)
  • Ferry Building
  • Transamerica Pyramid
  • the highest peaks in the Lower 48 (e.g., Mt. Whitney)

Firsts in Las Vegas:

  • Hoover Dam
  • Bellagio Fountains
  • Bellagio Conservatory
  • High Roller Ferris wheel (world’s tallest!)
  • Red Rock Canyon
  • dinner at Andy and Tina’s (playing the Otamatone, making cotton candy from Jolly Rancher)
  • Animatronic Ratatouille scene at the ARIA pastry shop. Also a house built entirely of sugar and a Henry Moore sculpture (of brief interest by comparison!)
  • The Halo water vortex sculpture at the Crystals mall
  • 800-pound chocolate Statue of Liberty at New York, New York
  • ancient hieroglyphics at Luxor
  • a Komodo dragon at Shark Reef
  • pizza restaurant dedicated to Evel Knievel
  • the Fremont Street Experience
  • In n Out Burger
  • Trump International Hotel
  • Wynn garden
  • Venetian canals (“What news on the Rialto?”) and St. Mark’s Square (improved with handrails!)
  • the best of Paris
  • ancient Rome (Caesar’s Palace)
  • Statue/memorial to Siegfried and Roy (who survived Montecore’s teeth, but died at age 75 from Covid-19)

We had planned to stop at the Grand Canyon, which is blessed with a beautiful airport. However, the shuttle and taxi services are both run by government contractors and they’ve elected to shut down #UntilTheresACure. No rental cars are available. No crew cars are available. We did fly over the Zuni Corridor at 11,500′, though:

In Bowling Green:

  • National Corvette Museum (the sinkhole collapse simulator was a huge hit!)
  • White Castle
  • Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Stalagmites and Stalactites in (Diamond Caverns)
  • “truck on truck” (5-year-old’s coinage)

When they grow up they’ll be asking “What voltage came out of those pumps?”

On a three-week trip we could have relaxed a bit more in Vegas, driven to/from the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, stopped in Colorado, stopped in St. Louis and/or Kansas City, stopped in New York City.

29 thoughts on “Turboprop coast to coast to coast with youngsters

  1. Amazing you have all met Elizabeth Warren! For the aviation enthusiast, do you have any trip related date? Like average speed? Average fuel burn? etc. etc.

    • The Elizabeth Warren meeting (not a personal one): https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2016/07/20/elizabeth-warren-helps-another-politician-raise-money-on-a-get-money-out-of-politics-platform/

      I would hate to put together the aviation statistics because it would quickly become apparent how irrational flying the PC-12 is! True airspeed was usually 250-260 knots. Headwinds on the way out were 50-65 knots (16-22,000′). Tailwinds on the way back were usually around 50 knots, with a range of 30-70 (21-28,000′). Fuel burn was probably around 400 lbs/hr. (60 gallons per hour).

    • So fuel costs were about 75¢ a mile. A comfortable non-hybrid sedan or minivan will cost you about 10¢ a mile. A Class-A motorhome might cost you 30¢ a mile.

      But at least you really can calculate mileage “as the crow flies” with an airplane. This should not be discounted when crossing mountain ranges.

      Time should be considered as well. Your actual transit time is considerably less than automobile travel, though allowance must be made for delays caused by weather.

      I dare say the quality of experience of the travel is far greater than surface travel, even if the comfort during private air travel is inferior to a greyhound bus.

      Any redneck driving a monster truck can explain to you that money isn’t everything when it comes to choice of transport. Speaking of which, take the kids to a Monster Truck rally ASAP. Much better than any Picasso. Bring earplugs/cottonballs for the noise.

  2. Awesome photos as usual. Congrats on accomplishing the trip relatively smoothly in only 11 days with some bad weather. There’s a reason why you have a Ph.D. from MIT. I’m glad the kids had the chance to see so much even if it was all packed into 11 days.

    It’s very sad to see Central Camera eviscerated that way – I’ve been there many times. I bought my first digital camera there, an Olympus C2020Z


    Only 2MP, but it had a good, versatile lens – 35-105mm zoom, and it was F2-2.8 throughout the range range so even without a flash you could take good pictures indoors and decent night shots. Compact and well-built. It had a pretty good built-in flash and a remote control, which worked well for tripod-stabilized shots. I loved that camera. It was stolen! from my desk at the Law School I used to work for! I actually thought nobody at a law school would dare to rifle through my desk drawers and steal my camera. Wrong.

    • Alex: But weren’t you saying that products in China were made with slave labor? If so, you should be happy that the mostly peaceful BLM protests resulted in the disappearance of the shop’s windows and inventory. Much of the inventory was no doubt made in China!

    • @Philg: To the extent China has a slave labor problem, I think Americans should be aware of it, they should be held accountable for it, and more American companies should be watchful for it. I don’t condone theft and I certainly don’t condone looting. It’s a double insult-to-injury because I’ll guarantee that many of the people covering the BLM “peaceful” protests favorably in Chicago bought their photographic supplies from Central Camera.

    • Alex: So of all the world’s nations, we are the best situated to lecture others regarding the evils of slavery? (See also “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?” (Samuel Johnson, London 1775))

    • @Philg: Maybe in a sense we are. Since we consume so many of the products in this world that are produced with slave labor or something close to it, I think it’s important that people in this country are aware of it and talk about it with real concern. That doesn’t absolve us, and I don’t like it, either.

    • @Alex: That we talk about it with real concern is all those enslaved workers want, after all, well done!

    • OC: Nothing is more meaningful to a slave than thoughts and prayers from righteous iPhone 12 Pro Max owners such as myself.

    • @Philg, @OC: You fellows are gonna make me go full retard. And one should never go full retard. 😉

  3. How was the Mercedes infotainment/climate control and overall driving experience vs. the Volvo S60?

    • Given that the Mercedes crew car was about 20 years old, its interface was much simpler than the Volvo we rented in Kentucky!

    • @Philg: Yes I see. I didn’t zoom in to really look at the car. The wheels and panel gaps (also the styling) give it away. And someone horked the circle from the MB logo on the trunk lid! Maybe it fell off? The car looks like it’s holding up pretty well after 20 years, befitting the reputation of E-Class sedans of that vintage. As long as it’s maintained, it’s a very nice sedan – lots of trunk space and good interior room. Someone will buy that car used for a few grand and put another 100,000 miles when the rental company is done with it, unless they can’t get it inspected.

  4. Nice! Surprised you were able to fly so close to Hoover Dam, I would have that that would have been restricted.

    • Comforted by a future under President Harris, my neighbors have stopped hoarding. The local supermarket was stocked with Lysol, Bounty, Charmin, hand sanitizer, and everything else that had been out of stock since March!

  5. Phil this sounds like a fun trip BUTTTT it is a classic coastal elite fly over of much of America. You really need to take your kids on some long car based road trips across the USA. You are sort of retired so teach your kids the real geography and great features of America. Take 3-8 weeks each for several trips. Maybe one or two each summer. Really see America. DO not fly over it. We live in an amazing country. Go see it close up. Go the north route, the central route for another, the southern route and east coast route. Drive down and see all of Florida and the keys and Gulf. Go boating and fishing and see Kennedy Space center. Go to Splash Mountain. Go see the Dakotas and Wyoming and Yellowstone and wild herds of buffalo and prong horn antelope and the wide open plains. Then go out and see the Washington and the coastal mountains and the Seattle area and all the lakes and ocean and forest stuff. Go home via plane to save time. Do another trip though Ohio and Indiana and Missouri and Kansas and Oklahoma and the central plains states. Then go west and visit the real big mountains of Colorado and Utah and the great US parks. Go see central California and Santa Barbara and the Pacific Coast Highway and the coast mountains and then down to see LA and Disneyland and the beaches of Santa Monica and Hermosa Beach and Huntington Beach. Fly home. Go way south thru Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and Texas and then west thru New Mexico and Arizona. Then on west to California and Palm Springs and San Diego. Drive down the east coast and NYC and New Jersey and Maryland and the outer banks and Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay and on to Kentucky and Tennessee and the Carolinas and finally down to Florida. Go down the east coast of Florida and Kennedy Space center and on down to Miami and the keys and Key West. Come back the west coast and stop and go boating and fishing in some of the bays. See Tampa and the other beach cities. See the Gulf. See a big oil platform.

    Maybe visit all 48 states if possible before the kids leave for college.

    Then you will really know America……

    Good Luck.

    • Bill: I agree with you and have done a handful of cross-country drives during my own lifetime. But remember that this particular trip popped up during the school year. So there was a limit to how many weeks we could be away (our children do not identify as Black and therefore their schools were reopened in September).

    • Phil mentioned he has chosen a most unpractical airplane for this trip. His airplane is so unpractical that the trip would have been much faster and easier driving! He has at least 8 stops, sometimes for day while waiting for weather so I do not think Bill’s comments hold water. If he would have chosen an aircraft that could have “flown over” the fly over states maybe so. But Phil’s choice in aircraft guaranteed that he would have to spend many days on the ground in fly over states.

    • Toucan Sam: Almost any trip is faster and easier driving, especially if you count the hours of flight training and currency that are required to maintain proficiency (also the hours overseeing maintenance, updating the GPS databases, etc.). But most of the stops were there because we wanted to see people or see sights. We could have made it nonstop from Vegas to our home airport in Boston, I think, if we’d pulled the power back slightly. And we wouldn’t have had to adjust the schedule if we didn’t have to worry about passenger comfort. The PC-12 will land just fine in a 48-knot wind!

    • I’ve been thinking for a while that maybe it’s time for Philip to buy one of those big motorhomes, so he could get out of MA in real style and luxury, fly from place to place but with a mobile “base of operations.” Maybe Senior Management could drive the RV from one locale to the other – save on the hotel stays, and live the RV lifestyle. Get a trailer for a couple of nice off-road quads and just tour the country. I’m really not kidding!

      On the other hand, maybe he’ll want to stay in the Bay State and buy a boat! Philip, if you’d ever like to buy a boat, I know a really good broker, been in the business for years, personal friend of mine and a great guy, honest and will sell you a fantastic slice of nautical adventure, no kidding! I can’t help with the RV directly, but I’ll bet he knows someone who could hook you up.


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