The Breakfast Club
An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots' Assn

The Knife & Fork

Breakfast Club Visit Safford, AZ/Hosted by City Officials

14 Mar 2009
by Warren McIlvoy

By the time that the Breakfast Club Event Committee met in November to compose our itinerary for 2009, I had been in contact with Ron Green, Mayor of Safford Arizona, on several occasions regarding a possible visit by the Scottsdale Breakfast Club. Ron proposed a cowboy cook-out for our breakfast visit along with a brief tour of the town. At that time, little did we realize that Ron and his fellow city officials would "hit the ball out of the park" with this event.

The weather for the day of the event started out crystal clear in the early morning hours but forexcast late morning cloud build-ups over the eastern mountains would pose a slight challenge for our return trip. I departed to the east out of Deer Valley Airport to my favorite GRINE intersection that signaled the outer limits of the Phoenix Class B airspace. The radio chatter on our "group flight following" frequency pretty much confirmed that we were well out of the lead but still a good distance from the later departures.

The ride was smooth as glass as we reached our first waypoint of San Carlos (Globe) and aimed for the eastern shores of San Carlos Reservoir. The Globe/San Carlos area defines the northern reaches of the Gila River Valley. The well defined valley made it very easy to stay on track to Safford. Just outside of the river bottom area are the small villages of Bylass, Geronimo, Fort Thomas, Eden, and lastly, Pima.

The chart does contain one oddity of note, to the south of San Carlos Reservoir is a mountain peak of just under 8300' that has no name. I cannot recall any other landmark of this stature that does not have at least one name. Since no one else in our group was able to identify it, we decided to name it ourselves, No Name Mountain. The State Geographic Committee will take that under advisement.

The traffic in the pattern pretty much confirmed the information from the ASOS information. Arrival from the north allowed for a 45 entry into left downwind for runway 8 with a right turn onto the ramp that, by now, was teeming with arrival activity. I parked in the front row to the right of the small terminal building that was the gathering point for the new arrivals. It was here that I had my first face-to-face meeting with Ron Green, the Mayor of Safford, and David Kincaid, City Manager. As time went on, I was also privileged to meet other city officials such as Jason Konts, Vice-Mayor, Ken Malloque, City Councilman, Ken Gowin, City staff, Ruben Mata, City staff, and Rudy Maldonado, City staff.

Following my introduction to the City Staff, Ron & I were interviewed by Jon Johnson, Asst. Editor of "The Eastern Arizona Courier", a newspaper that serves the eastern Arizona region. You can read the written story that Jon posted by clicking on:   or you can see the video footage at:
The one downside in being involved with the city folks was that I did not get to meet very many of the arriving Breakfast Club folks especially those who were first time attendees. Most of the Breakfast Club folks had already departed the airport for the cookout location before we left the airport.

For those folks who are unfamiliar with Safford, let me insert some information gathereed from Wikipedia:

Safford was founded by pioneers, who came from Gila Bend, in southwestern Arizona. They left Gila Bend in the winter of 1873-74; Their work on canals and dams having been destroyed by high water the previous summer. Upon arrival early in 1874, the villagers laid out the town site, including a few crude buildings.
The town is named after Arizona Territorial Governor Anson P.K. Safford.
The Town of Safford was incorporated October 10, 1901, and changed to City of Safford in 1955.

Due to Safford's relatively isolated position, the area has been chosen as a prime spot for hosting observatories. Safford and Thatcher's street lights are even low-output to improve the quality of the images taken by the observatories atop the mountain to the southwest of the city. The mountain for which the county is named, Mount Graham, is just a few miles southwest of the city. The mountain is home to the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO) and Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT. It, when completed, will be the largest binocular telescope in the world. The mountain also is home to the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, or VATT. It is also home to the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope, or SMT. The Mount Graham International Observatory complex is operated by the University of Arizona.

Safford is the setting for the 1985 Albert Brooks comedy"Lost In America". Safford is also the setting for the Jim W. Coleman book "Omens."

Notable natives
* D.J. Carrasco - MLB Pitcher for the Chicago White Sox
* Michael Ensign - Actor
* Elliot Johnson - MLB second baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays
* Fred Mortensen - Former NFL quarterback for the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins

Ron took us on a brief scenic tour of the city while in route to the breakfast site. He summarized the history of a number of the old buildings along the route. Even the city hall annex where we gathered on the front lawn was once an Indpendant Order of Odd Fellows meeting hall. The serving line consisted of two long tables that held the essentials of a true "Cowboy Cookout". There was sausages, bacon, two styles of scrambled eggs and the ever popular, biscuits & gravy. The beverage table had orange juice and "cowboy coffee. When Ron told me that we would be having "cowboy coffee" during our early conversations regarding the menu for the cookout., I asked Ron if that was the kind of coffee where you used a dinner fork to stir it and it came out as a two pronged shrimp fork? Ron laughed but went on to explain that the coffee and grounds were boiled together over an open fire and when the grounds settled to the bottom, it was then transferred to a dispensing pot. I was looking forward to this treat.

The tables, that would seat about 8-people each, were arranged in a group on the lawn of the city building and I found one of the few open spots to enjoy my morning meal. I just had to go back and get another serving the biscuits & gravy as these were topnotch. By this time, Ralph Smith, Don Wriston, and Ron Green were assembled to provide us with some western entertainment. Ralph Smith, obviously a man of many talents, was the chuck wagon cook along with supplying the vocals to go along with the western tunes.

Ron informed me that Ralph Smith and his chuck wagon crew, put on these cookouts with no fixed charge for the meal as they rely on donations to support many of the fund-raising activities of the City. From the response that I received from a number of Breakfast Club attendees, Ron and his fellow city officials did one whale of a job. I can't recall a Breakfast Club event that was so well received by the local folks as this one was. Rest assured, we will be repeating this event again next year but with an added twist; We will make it an over-night event that will include either a copper mine tour or a tour of the telescope facilities on Mount Graham. The tough part of this trip will be in deciding which of the two options that we will choose.

Ron and his folks got us all back out the airport and after paying for our fuel (at a discounted price for this event), and making the mandatory "pit stop", we boarded our plane for our return back to the valley. My plan was to retrace my arrival route via Globe but as we neared that waypoint, there was a huge storm cell just to the west of the Globe airport. I had a choice of either going around it by the eastern route or the western route. I was hearing over our flight following frequency, that most of the folks had chosen the western route that would take us over the mountains just to the east of Kearny and Superior. This was all quite easy as my trusty Garmin 530 kept pointing the way to GRINE intersection where I would turn on a westerly course. As I neared Superior, I could clearly distinguish that most famous landmark, Weaver's Needle. We enjoyed a great day of flying, visited with many new and old friends and treasured one of the more remarkable Breakfast Club events ever. What more could you ask for?

I would like to thank Ron Green, Mayor of the City of Safford and all of the city officials and staff who, with their generous contribution of their time and effort, made this event possible. Though my recollections of our 1990's visit are quite vague, the memories of this event will linger for a long time. Thanks again Ron, I will be in contact again to plan next year's event.

The Safford Squad

City of Safford Folks

Chuck Wagon Crew

What's Next?

Our April event will see the Breakfast Club go west (more or less) to Big Bear City, California and the Barnstorm Café. This is truly a beautiful location with the city located in a mountain valley adjacent to a mountain lake and more trees than you can count. In May, we will visit the south rim of the Grand Canyon for the first of our two over-night fly-ins. Rooms at the Canyon go quickly and may already be sold out. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.

Click on the Safford link to view photos of this event.