Today is a much lighter day than yesterday: just one 389 nautical mile leg to Boulder, CO (KBDU). At breakfast with Bill and Katie, we discuss the weather. Bill is flying to Mississippi for work, and will likely encounter rain and thunderstorms along the way. On the contrary, our weather to Boulder is absolutely perfect: blue skies, no wind, great visibility. After thanking Bill and Katie for their wonderful hospitality, we take off from Lincoln just behind Bill’s Cessna 182 and head west at 6,500 ft. As we are still climbing, we pass a Cessna 172 established at his cruising altitude — a nice reminder that the Mooney is faster than most single-engine piston aircraft.
From here on out, it’s just miles of farmland rolling past the windows: field after field of corn, occasionally interrupted by a cattle feedlot or a small town — usually centered around a grain silo. Denver Center gives up on us somewhere near Kearney, advising “radar contact lost, suggest contacting Denver Approach in Two-Zero-Zero miles” (!). Jim calls Flight Watch for some entertainment, providing the most uninteresting pilot report in history — sky clear, winds aloft calm, visibility better than 50 miles — then plugs in some music.
Crossing into Colorado, we hope for a change, but as Jim puts it: “Eastern Colorado, despite sounding more exciting, looks just like Nebraska.” After more farmland, we spot what at first seems to be a cloud layer in the distance. As we get closer, we are very excited to recognize the beautiful snow-capped Rocky Mountains. We are still at 6,500 ft above sea level, but the ground has been slowly creeping on us: from 5,000 ft above the ground in Nebraska, we are now only at about 1,500 ft above the ground. We are careful to stay under the busy Denver Bravo airspace and are getting closer to the Boulder airport. After some minor difficulty finding the airport — it’s between two lakes, but which two lakes? — we pass a Citabria as we enter downwind. For this high altitude landing, we are careful to leave the mixture fairly lean, and the short final checklist “gear down, levers forward” just becomes “gear down, prop forward”.
With the help of time change — we are now in Mountain time and Mooney-lagged — it is still late morning. After watching planes come and go at Boulder, we find a hotel and dropping off our bags, and we walk to downtown and explore Pearl Street — it looks just like the Commons in Ithaca, just bigger. We borrow bikes from a bike share program (for free today as part of a promotion from Wells Fargo), and visit the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder. We finally have a nice dinner with Matt, Sam and Morgan, friends of Jim who live in the area.