Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn



The Knife & Fork





Breakfast Club Visits Big Bear City/Barnstorm Café



8 Oct 2011

by Warren McIlvoy



Big Bear City, California is better known as a weekend get-a-way destination for the folks who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the greater Los Angles basin.  Depending on your specific location in the valley and the time of day, it is about a 90-minute drive from the hot, smoggy LA basin to the cool, Alpine climate of the 6800’ high resort town.  In the winter season, the nearby ski sloops lure the valley ski enthusiasts for a weekend on the slopes.  Big Bear has something to offer for most of the southern California residents as well as the hungry aviator in search of the infamous “$350 ham and eggs”. 


Oddly enough, the airport is located at the east end of Big Bear Lake in a narrow mountain valley with rising terrain on both the north and south sides of the valley.  If you are approaching from the east and using runway 26, I have advised our people to fly an upwind leg on the north side of the valley and then cross over the departure end of 26 and then turn to a left downwind to 26.  If using runway 8, it is just a case of flying a long right downwind out over the lake and doing the approach over the water.


From Here to There


Big Bear is the longest in distance at 240 km’s that we will go without an overnight stay.  Depending on your aircraft and winds, it is about a 2-hour flight which is only slightly less than a flight to San Diego.  On the Arizona side of the flight, you are entertained by numerous, somewhat small mountain ridges with a smattering of small towns and settlements and the occasional agricultural operation.  As we near the Colorado River just to the south of the City of Parker, AZ, the farming sites dominate the scenery especially along the river on the Arizona side.  Once on the California side, the geography turns to stark, desert-like terrain just minus the sand dunes.  It just strikes me as odd that the southern California geography has harsher desert areas that make Arizona appear to be more like a “garden of Eden”.  As we near the Twenty-Nine Palms area, you can use either the TNP VOR or the KTNP airport as a waypoint to avoid the Marine Corp base and the associated restricted area that is just to the north of the city.  From here it is a straight shot to L-35.  At 8500’, you can clear the eastern edge of the mountains and head directly to the airport.  On every other occasion when we have visited Big Bear, we had always used runway 26 but this time the winds favored using runway 8.  This is the first time that I have used runway 8 and turning a right base to final was a tad bit intimidating as the mountains on the north side of the valley are very close to the airport.  Upon exiting the runway and taxing to the ramp, we had no problem with finding a parking spot.  We were almost the “early bird” but we were beaten-out by Adam Rosenberg who flew in on Friday afternoon and stayed at a near-by cabin.  Jerry & Nancy were already there as they were returning from their summer hang-out somewhere in the Salt Lake City area.  When we got out of the airplane, the 50 ish temperature with the 10kt wind out of the east, quickly reminded us that we were no longer in the desert.  Just about that same time, the Rynearsons taxied-in and parked a few spaces to our right.  I took a few photos or our arriving aircraft but the cool temps reminded me that there was some hot coffee waiting for me in the restaurant. 


The Barnstorm Café ( is located inside the terminal building and is accessible from both the ramp side as well as the street side.  The café is not a large establishment by any means but it does have an aviation atmosphere.  The food has always been good and the prices are on the moderate side but that means little as we just made a two hour flight to get here.  Since our Breakfast Club group only amounted to 9-people, we were all able to sit together at a pair of tables that were pulled together to accommodate our needs.  The hot coffee and the warm venue made for a very nice breakfast meal.


On one of our previous visits, some of us chose to catch a ride on the local shuttle that makes a complete circle of Big Bear City.  As memory serves, it only costs a couple of bucks for the 1.5 hour scenic tour of the city.  My wife and I did not have the luxury of an abundance of time so we had to take a pass on this occasion.  Jerry & Nancy elected to give it a go but I have not had to opportunity to ask them how they liked it.


Our return trip was a mirror image of out inbound leg with the exception of the slight headwind that we experienced earlier.  The scenery doesn’t change much in the California deserts so it was more of a welcome sight after crossing-over the Colorado River and viewing the “greenArizona side.  It is most likely the beauty and uniqueness of Big Bear that makes us endure the long flight for the elusive “$350 ham and eggs”.


The Big Bear Group


  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1 & 1.5
  • Jerry & Nancy Grout in 1129T
  • Adam Rosenberg in 8377W
  • Steve Loyer in 8968M (BC new guy)
  • John & Pat and Nick Rynearson in 3501S, BC-117


What’s Next?


The November Breakfast Club event will see the group making an encore visit to Lake Havasu City and the Makai Café.  We will be parking at Desert Skies Aviation who has promised us the use of their two vans.  In December, we will be heading up north to an old favorite, Sedona and a visit to the new Sedona Airport Restaurant which, I believe is called “The Mesa Grill”.  That’s all for now but remember, fly safe.


To view photos of this fly-in event, just click on Big Bear link