Day 7, Leg 1: up the Sacramento Valley to Oregon

Wind turbines northeast of Livermore, California

Wind turbines northeast of Livermore, California

We had an early start today: up at 5:20 am, to catch an early commuter train to Palo Alto — thankfully, an express train that flew past most of the stations along the way.  Alberto, our mechanic at Palo Alto, wanted to meet with us before he had to head out at 8 am.  We made the trip easy: a cab was waiting for us at Roland’s house at 5:30, and once we were in Palo Alto, it was another quick cab ride to the airport.

We met with Alberto around 7:30, and chatted about our trip and 7CF’s old vacuum pump, which seized internally.  After handing us the logbook entry and the new pump’s airworthiness certificate, Alberto shows us that he wasn’t joking about “heading out” at 8 am:  he hops into a Piaggio Avanti and blasts off (by himself!), headed to Los Angeles for the day.  Not a bad way to commute!

Looking at the satellite imagery, the Northern California and Oregon coasts are completely fogged over, so we decide to take an inland route: up the Sacramento Valley to Medford, Oregon for gas and lunch before heading on to Seattle.  The classic San Francisco low clouds have cleared out at Palo Alto, but SFO is still fogged in, so we decide to take off IFR and then cancel once we’re further inland and outside of San Francisco’s busy airspace.

Jean-Baptiste files our flight plan, and magically the skies clear up — it seems that filing IFR is usually the best way to get good weather!  After taking off around 8:30, we first head east over the Bay before being cleared on-course.  We pass Lawrence-Livermore National Labs, then Sacramento, while dodging a few Lockheed C-5s flying practice approaches into Travis Air Force Base.  Following Interstate 5 up the Sacramento River Valley, it’s endless miles of farm after farm, surrounded by beautiful mountains.

As we get further north, Mount Shasta comes into view, our first volcano of the trip but not the last of the day!  The scenery quickly changes from flat fields to rocky and jagged peaks, and logging sites replace vegetable fields.  We skirt around Shasta’s 14,162 ft peak and continue following I-5 into Oregon.

Jean-Baptiste sets us up on a straight-in approach into Rogue Valley International / Medford (KMFR). We’re surprised by the activity: a few planes in the pattern, a TBM-850 chasing us down final, and a Boeing Business Jet parked on the ramp. After the minimal FBO at the Grand Canyon, and no FBO at Palo Alto, the Million Air operation at Medford is a welcome sight: a comfortable terminal, great service, and a crew car — they’re definitely catering to the private jet set, but they’re still happy to have us.  Jean-Baptiste flashes his driver’s license and ends up with the keys to a brand-new Mercedes E350, and we head into town for a quick lunch.