Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn



The Knife & Fork


Breakfast Club Drops in on Flagstaff

Dines at the Crown Railroad Café



10 & 11 Sept, 2011

by Warren McIlvoy



The September Breakfast Club fly-in event was the second of our two annual over-night fly-ins and the Event Committee decided to keep it closer to home and visit one of the more popular summertime destinations in all of Arizona.  Flagstaff, situated at 7,000’ in elevation is a big draw for those of us who tolerate the “blast furnace” temperatures of the Arizona deserts.  If you had to drive to Flagstaff from the greater Phoenix metro area, you are looking at somewhere around 2-hours on I-17, but for those of us who are fortunate enough to be aviators, it is a mere 40-50 flight depending on aircraft speed. 


At the Flagstaff Airport, Wiseman Aviation is widely known for their friendly customer service but they also have connections with many of the local hotels and car rental outlets that extend good discounts to those travelers who will be spending a night or more.  In the case of the Breakfast Club, they got us about a $40 discount at the Courtyard by Marriott and a $35 discount at Enterprise Car Rental on a Chevy Suburban.  Not to shabby for a bunch of hungry aviators looking to save a buck.


The weather was predicted to be very good for the early portion of our day’s activities but it was supposed to turn to thunder storms by some time in the afternoon.  Some of our group was going to go up on Friday to visit a classic car show that was in town but they canceled-out because of the less than favorable weather predicted for Saturday afternoon.  As it turned-out, the predicted thunder storms did not arrive until late in the evening with the rest of day being blessed by gorgeous weather conditions.


The folks at Wisemans suggested they we might enjoy breakfast at a place in town called the Crown Railroad Café that was very close to our hotel.  After loading-up the Suburban with our gear and bodies, I headed-up I-17 and after passing under I-40, the road became just another arterial street in the Flagstaff grid.  I had a MapQuest map that was supposed to help us find the restaurant but it was more confusing than it was helping but with the process of elimination, we were able to locate the Crown Railroad Café in a shopping center sorta tucked-away in one of the corners.  The café definitely had a railroad theme with many small tables but since there were only six of us, the lone, circular booth was able to accommodate our needs.  Mounted on the walls and well above head level, there were two trains.  One of the trains was on a continuous loop of the restaurant while the other started above the front window and turned to continue its travels along one of the walls.  At the end of its track, the train would stop and then reverse itself and return to its starting point above the front window where the scene repeated itself.  As for the menu, most of the items had a railroad theme but I chose railroad Eggs Benedict.  During breakfast, I suggested that we could drive up to the Arizona Snow Bowl and ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain and later, we could visit the Lowell Observatory.  This seemed to meet with approval from our small group so after we finished eating, we made “pit stops” and I received driving instructions from the restaurant folks on how to get to the Snow Bowl. 


Traffic on the Flagstaff streets was heavy due this being homecoming weekend at Northern Arizona State University accompanied by  the traditional football game.  Add to that, the classic car show and you have all the makings for what would substitute for rush hour traffic back in the valley.  We did eventually wend our way through the heavy traffic and found the highway that exited the north end of town.  The road up to the Snow Bowl from the main highway, is about 7-miles of twisting, winding, road marked by sporadic signs of construction that is part of the project that is to bring “gray” water up to the slopes in order to make snow when Mother Nature doesn’t provide the real stuff.  The last mile of the road is down to one lane with a flagman at both ends to stop traffic so that the arriving or departing traffic can proceed.  It has been 40-years since I was last here so none of the facilities look at all familiar.  The one thing that I did remember was that at the top of the mountain, you better have a jacket or other warm wrap at it can be a bit chilly even during the warmest months of the year and today was no exception with the skies being somewhat overcast.  The lift ticket was $8.00 for us “old timers” and $12 for the “young folks”.  We split-up into pairs and waited for the signal from the attendant to take our positions and wait for the approaching chair. 


The chairlift rises to the 11,500’ level and is about 6400’ in length.  The ride is about a half an hour including frequent stops that, I believe, are due to taking-on returning passengers at the top of the mountain.  As we ascended up the mountain, I could see where the intersecting trails merged with the main downhill sloping trail.  There was little breeze to speak-of and when the chair stopped, there was not a sound, just dead quiet.  The sky was overcast and at one point, we experienced a brief, very light sprinkle that lasted about 45-seconds.  When we reached the last 50’, the sign instructed us to raise the seat guard and prepare for exiting at the top.  The air temperature was somewhere in the upper 40’s to maybe about 50 degrees thus making the use of a jacket an absolute necessity. 


The view from the top is extraordinary but the overcast did limit our visibility somewhat.  After taking a number of photos, I visited the highest toilet in the state of Arizona (or so says the sign) before boarding the chairlift for our return trip to the ski chalet.  Once back at the chalet, I got a cup of hot chocolate before returning to the car.  By the time that we arrived back in Flagstaff, the clouds had departed as we again enjoyed the bright, warm sunshine.

Before pursuing another activity, we decided to head to our hotel to see if we could do an early check-in to off-load our gear that was in the back of our vehicle.  As luck would have it, we were all able check-in for our rooms and promptly unloaded the car and headed off to our rooms and to agree to meet at the lobby desk in a half hour for our next adventure.


Our next destination was the Lowell Observatory ( that was named after Percival Lowell, the discoverer of the planet Pluto in the early part of the 20th century.  It was a relatively short drive to Mars Hill where the observatory is located.  After purchasing our tour tickets, we joined a group that has just started the guided tour of the observatory grounds and buildings.  The guide would give us a brief history of the various buildings and their current functions.  One building in particular that is most associated with the Lowell facility is the Clark Telescope.  The 24” refracting telescope was constructed by the Alvan Clark & Sons in 1896 and was later housed in the wooden dome that was constructed by local bicycle repairmen Godfrey and Stanley Sykes.  The telescope was used by V.M. Slipher in 1912 to document the first evidence of the expanding nature of the universe.  Today, it is used exclusively for public education.


The actual telescope used by Percival Lowell when he discovered Pluto in 1930, was a 13” astrograph (a type of telescope employed exclusively to take pictures).  Later, it was used to study the proper motion of stars (proper motion is a star’s angular change in position over time).


One feature of interest was the “Pluto Walk”.  This 350’ outdoor exhibit illustrates the scale of the solar system from the sun to Pluto.  The scale is one inch to one million miles and you would have to travel all the way to Los Angles to reach the closet star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri.  By walking the entire distance from where the sun was to where Pluto was (using this scale) we would have walked 350 billion miles.  No wonder I was so tired when we got back to the hotel. 


When we arrived at our hotel, we called Black Barts for dinner reservations and we had to take a 5:30 dinner time as they had a large tour group scheduled to arrive at 6:00.  That did not give us much time to freshen-up before heading out again for the restaurant.  Black Barts ( is a well known steakhouse frequented by both locals as well as tourists (that be us).  The waiters and waitresses serve double duty as they serve the food as well as providing the entertainment.  Many of them performed solo and occasionally they performed as a group.  They performed many show tunes as well as classics and along with a good meal, the evening was very pleasant and worthwhile.  In my “humble” opinion, this is a must see when you are visiting the Flagstaff area.


When we got back to the hotel, the evening was still somewhat young so after a quick trip to our rooms, we met back in the lounge and found a somewhat secluded spot where we could sit and relive the day’s activities.  There were quite a few people in the bar area as the large screen TV had a football game on that generated sporadic loud cheers.  At about 9:30 or so, we decided to call-it-a-day and retire to our rooms but before dispersing, we decided to meet in the dinning area at 0700 for breakfast.  At about 10:30 or so, I noticed an occasional flash of light through the window but I initially attributed it to cars traveling an adjacent neighborhood street.  But in due time, the accompanying crash of thunder signaled the arrival of the storms that were supposed to foul-up our planned activities and caused some folks to cancel-out their attendance for this fly-in.


The buffet style breakfast was a $9.95 extra but since it included just about anything that you could want for breakfast, it was worth trying.  They even featured an omelet bar where you could order your custom made omelet.  After a filling breakfast meal, we agreed to meet in the hotel lobby at 0830 for the ride back to the Flagstaff Airport for the trip back to the valley.


The weather for our return trip was just a gorgeous as it was the prior morning with the only exception being that I had to wipe-down the windows on my airplane but the free wash job sorta helped to make-up for it.  Speaking of the Flagstaff Airport, Wiseman Aviation is a first class organization.  Jennifer Stead worked with our hotel to get our group a very generous discount on our rooms as well as a sizable discount on our rental vehicle from Enterprise Car Rental that is located in the FLG terminal building.  Jennifer had the car delivered to their parking lot for our convenience.  Jennifer and the folks at Wiseman went out of their way to make this Breakfast Club event even more enjoyable.  Thanks Jen for everything.


The Flagstaff Gang


  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1 & 1.5
  • Paul Fortune in 31870, BC-201
  • John & Pat and Nick Rynearson in 3501S, BC-117


What’s Next?


The October Breakfast Club fly-in will be to Big Bear City, CA and the Barnstorm Café.  This is one of the furthest fly-in locations that we will do in one day but the valley setting with the airport at the east end of the lake provides a breath-taking view.  The November fly-in will be to Lake Havasu, AZ and a return trip to the Maki Café.  We will be reserving the patio seating area that has the boat docks and the London Bridge as a backdrop.  That’s all for now but remember, fly safe.


You can view the Flagstaff photos in a full-screen slideshow and download full-resolution copies for free. Enjoy!



2011-9-12, Flagstaff

View Album