The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn


The Knife & Fork



Breakfast Club Visits Chiriaco Summit, General Patton Museum


8 Nov 2003
By Warren McIlvoy

The November
Breakfast Club event ended-up at Chiriaco Summit. That's not what the schedule said but that is where we went anyway. The big adventure here was not so much in getting there, but rather in the planning.

Some time last November or December, Paul Fortune and I made an "exploratory" flight to Cottonwood to see if there was any dinning facility within walking distance from the airport. We were advised that there was a Best Western motel that was maybe a ½ mile hike and on the main highway. Well, the ½ mile was much closer to 1 mile and the motel did not have a dinning facility for breakfast. They did have a banquet facility that would set-up a breakfast buffet for us at about $9.00 a head. That's a little bit more than we usually spend but, what the hell, we have never been to Cottonwood for a
Breakfast Club event. We could also arrange transportation for the group for just a dollar that would shuttle those folks who might like to make a day of it and take the Verde Canyon Train ride. We got names and phone numbers of the people that we would need to contact to set this event in motion for November of 03.

About a month or so prior to the scheduled event, Paul called the motel only to find out that it had changed hands and that they wanted us to "guarantee" a minimum head count and also we would need to forward a deposit. Well, that went over like a lead balloon. As every one is aware, I never know how many folks are going to show-up and I did not retire to get into the money donation business. With this information in hand, we 86ed the Cottonwood destination. I quickly sent out a note to the event committee for suggestions and Bisbee got the nod as it was the scheduled alternate anyway.

I called the Bisbee Airport and spoke with a lady there that was running the place for the new managers. She said that they had a van that could take about 5 people at a time into town. I said that we normally had 25-30 people show-up for our events and that a single van would take forever to transport that many people to the Copper Queen Hotel. She was new there and did not have further information regarding other transportation options. I asked her for the phone number to the Chamber of Commerce as they might be able to help us out. I spoke with the gentleman in charge and, guess what, he has only been in the area for about 6 months. He gave me the name and phone number of a company that did local jeep tours. That company only wanted $15.00 per person for the 6 mile trip into town. I quickly axed that idea and things were beginning to look grim. As a last resort, I called the Copper Queen Hotel and spoke with the manager. He said that they no longer had their van. The manager did suggest that maybe the Mine Tour folks could help us out as they had two 9 passenger vans and, in as much as the airport and the mine tours were both city operations, that this might work for us. I asked him to give it a try but I had to know by no later than Thursday afternoon. I never herd from him again. The Bisbee option went down in flames like a cardboard shanty town. Apparently Bisbee no longer feels that they need to promote tourism like they did in the 80's and 90's. I can remember events where there were enough vehicles at the airport to qualify as a road rally. I called the folks out at the airport and spoke with the same lady. I informed her that we would not be making Bisbee our November destination as we could not arrange transportation for our group. She expressed disappointment in our having to cancel the Bisbee event but she was also distressed in just learning that she had lost her home in Julian due to the wild fires that were ravaging the town. She also said that she had not been able to contact her father who lives in the house. I offered her my condolences and wished her well. Suddenly, our little problem of transportation did not seem so important.

With only a week to go before our schedule date, it was now time to make an "executive" decision. Some one had sent me a note regarding Chiriaco Summit and suggested that this might be worthwhile as the General Patton Museum would be celebrating the Veteran's Day weekend with special programs and events. So Chiriaco Summit it was.

The flight over was so smooth that, with you eyes closed, you would not know that you were moving. The only bump that we encountered was the wake turbulence from BC-32 passing us. After landing straight-in on 24, we continued ahead on that portion of the runway that turns into the ramp area. Parking was getting scarce but I did manage to get one quite near the gate at the west end of the ramp. There had been some changes to L77 since the last time that we were here. There was what appeared to be a rather large hanger as the far east end of the ramp and there was also a new convenience store that was not yet open across from the old gas station. The truck stop café had not changed at all and neither has the food. Not at all bad for an out-of-the-way place such as this.

After breakfast, most of our large group hiked over to the Museum to see what the day's festivities were all about. There were some buses parked at the outer edge of the parking lot that was also the site of one large tent along with several smaller ones that housed the food concessions and the souvenir vendors. The larger tent was well stocked with folding chairs and the north end of the tent sheltered the band that was playing tunes from the WWII era. Admission to the museum was only $2.00, half the regular admission price and I just could not pass-up a bargain. Below is some text from the Museum web site that gives some history about General Patton and the Museum.

"General George S. Patton Memorial Museum was established to honor the late General George S. Patton and the thousands of men who served with him at the Desert Training Center and overseas. The museum, is located off Interstate 10, about 30 miles east of Indio at Chiriaco Summit, which was the entrance to Camp Young, command post for the DTC during World War II. The site was donated by Joseph Chiriaco, one of the first area residents General Patton met when he arrived to set up the center.
Exhibits display memorabilia from the life and career of General Patton. The exhibit halls include the many and varied aspects of military life with particular focus on the Desert Training Center and soldiers of World War II. Information concerning Southern California water development and the building of the Colorado Aqueduct can be found as well as Natural Science exhibits which show rocks, minerals and fossils of the region and plants and animal life of the desert and mountains.


In January 1942, just a month after the United States entered the war, German troops under the command of Field Marshall Rommel started pushing toward Egypt, threatening the Suez Canal. British troops were unable to stop the assault. It was evident that U.S. troops would have to engage in a desert campaign. There was no background for such an engagement in the history of the U.S. warfare.
On February 5, 1942, Lt. General Lesley J. McNair, Chief of Staff, General Headquarters, gave his approval to a plan developed to stop Germany's advance in Northern Africa. He designated Major General George S. Patton, Jr. to establish the Desert Training Center for the purpose of training men and machines for action under the harsh conditions of the African deserts.

With staff officers, he flew over a vast expanse of sand and brush weeds in Southern California and portions of Arizona and Nevada. Later, he covered much of the area on foot and on horseback. He decided this was the place to build a force for desert combat. The area selected by General Patton in the California and Arizona deserts encompassed approximately 18,000 square miles, making it the largest military installation and maneuver area in the world.
He described it as this: "The training area is the best I have ever seen . . . it is desolate and remote . . . large enough for any kind of training exercises."
The first troops to arrive at the Desert Training Center described it as "The place God forgot." It was eventually to become the training ground for more than a million troops in seven armored divisions and thirteen infantry divisions.
General Patton arrived and the Desert Training Center became operational in early April 1942. Four days later, he and the troops took their first desert march. Within 15 days, all units at the center had been on a desert march. Within 23 days, he had conducted 13 tactical exercises, including some with two nights in the desert.
Patton was determined to move fast and to prepare his men well. Conditions were primitive. Some had wooden floors for their tents, but no electricity, no sheets for their cots, and none of the amenities common to other stateside military installations.
When the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles suggested that the men build storage tanks for water, the General declined, saying, 'They have no time to do anything except learn to fight." Within a month after arrival, every man sent to the Desert Training Center had to be able to run a mile in 10 minutes, wearing a full back pack and carrying a rifle.
When General Patton started operating the Desert Training Center, he knew little about the desert. He called upon the expertise of Roy Chapman Andrews, an explorer who had made several expeditions to the Gobi Desert. Patton explained to officers, "If you can work successfully here, in this country, it will be no difficulty at all to kill the assorted sons of bitches you meet in any other country."
In spite of the hardships to which he put them and the harshness of his manner; his troops respected, admired, and even loved General George S. Patton, Jr. Many of the troops felt bitterness when the War Department designated the Desert Training Center Command Post "Camp Young." True, U. Gen. S.M.B. Young had fought Indians in the area and was the first army chief of staff, but this was Patton country and the camp, according to his troops, should have been named for him.
Patton shunned accommodations at an Indio hotel and at a ranch house where his wife, Beatrice lived. He lived with his troops in the same primitive accommodations. With little notice, and to his surprise, Patton was summoned to Washington and then dispatched overseas to start planning Operation Torch, the North African campaign which was to be decisive in Allied victory.
While General George S. Patton, Jr. was at the Desert Training Center for less than four months, and only a fraction of the approximately one million men who eventually trained there were under his direct command his impact has been lasting.
For that reason, the Bureau of Land Management and General Patton Memorial, Inc. has established a memorial to the flamboyant, colorful and controversial general, the Desert Training Center and the Troops who served there".


Educational Programs include guided class tours, circulating and traveling exhibits, lending materials, Nature Study classes, lectures, field trips and publications through the Patton Memorial Museum Press.
Volunteer Service opportunities are available as Docents (Museum Guides) and Archival Assistants. Museum Assistantships are available in the Museum Gift Shop. Curatorial Assistants and Internships are available for members of the Museum and qualified applicants through the California College and University systems. For more information, contact:

        General George S. Patton Memorial Museum
        Chiriaco Summit, CA 92201
        Open daily 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

After touring the Patton Museum, it was back to our aircraft for the ride home. Just as it was in the morning, the air was still smooth as glass. It almost a shame not to make the trip longer as it was such a nice day for aviating. The fact that we had about 28 of our
Breakfast Club folks make the trip speaks volumes for the great day that it was.

Chiriaco Summit Crew

  • Warren McIlvoy & Aaron Kern in 4544X, BC-1
  • David Lester in 32832, BC-NN
  • Garrett Dauphars in 1841H
  • Larry Berger and Alan Lipak in 8086K, BC-66
  • Whitney White and Dan Tollman in 6484X
  • Glen & Billie Saffell in 7077V
  • Tom & Lynn Long in 8764M
  • Harold DarcAngelo in 320HD, BC-32
  • Joe Stockwell and Ed McMahan in 843CD, BC-33
  • Richard Spiegel, Dolly Petersen, Ted Crowley and Sam Foote in 901KA, BC-3


What's Next?

The December Breakfast Club event is scheduled to take us to the White Mountains and Whiteriver and the Whiteriver Apache motel. The January event will kick-off the 11th year of Breakfast Club events and we will be going to Parker, AZ and the Blue Water Casino.

Click on the Chiriaco Summit link to view photos of this fly-in event.