The Hotel California… In Phoenix?

Though the past month has had none of the debauchery found in the Eagles song, I am certainly living the line “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” On no less than six occasions, I’ve taken my keys to the front desk, heaved my bags into an Uber and set off in the morning thinking I’d seen the last of the Grand Canyon state. The first was a glorious week in Utah, and the last was a reassignment to California that was over in the time it took to get there.

Coming back from a week of routine maintenance, the word from on high was, “Finish up the two easy plans in Phoenix, then relocate to SoCal for reflys.”

So I did. For once, I was only a minor inconvenience to the fine controllers at Phoenix TRACON, who I’d been bothering daily to carve out an hour of access to the project. The automotive equivalent: running back and forth on the busiest downtown exit while semi-trucks, buses and Lamborghinis¬† buzzed by, giving your hair a tousle each time. These plans though, were out of the way enough that ATC wasn’t even required to call out the jets passing over and along side.

A few hours on station one afternoon wrapped it up, and the next morning I set off for an interstate adventure, Lana Del Rey (sorry, not sorry) cooing in my headset.

wind turbines under a mountain pass
The smoggy LA basin is anything but photogenic, so here’s Banning Pass.

Though the headwind stretched out the journey, the bumps didn’t reach my 8500 ft cruise altitude, and the moody autopilot decided to show up to work that day. Too soon, the travel was over and the work began. Clouds and smog obscured half the target area, so I wandered about seeking a slice of project that was free of clouds or air too dirty to see through.

With all but two lines complete, I landed for fuel in Riverside, and was surprised to run into some fellow contractors. I was warming up my gear for a second run when another Aztec pulled alongside and called over the disused radio frequency adopted by imaging pilots, “Who’s that in 43Y?” I let him know the new guy was in town, and we talked about meeting after the quick shoot that would wrap up the work my rig was capable of here. Behold though, as I was blasting through the last line, new orders arrived: Back to Phoenix. So much for meeting the legendary pilot known to friends as “Big Country”.

So here I am, working 3 hours a day, devouring Murakami and Hemingway at the Drury Inn, where you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. Hey, I’m not complaining.

4 Replies to “The Hotel California… In Phoenix?”

  1. Wow, your life is pretty darned exciting. So wonderful to hear you are enjoying yourself, all while being gainfully employed. Who knew this could happen! Thanks for the blog. Wonderful writing.

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