The Breakfast Club  
The Knife & Fork

Breakfast Club Climbs Into Big Bear, Barnstorm Cafe

By Warren McIlvoy
11 May 02

It's hard to believe that it was June of 1999 when the Breakfast Club last flew into Big Bear. Not that it has not been scheduled mind you, but weather played a big part in scuttling planed events to this picturesque mountain retreat. But this time, the weather gods were smiling on us and Big Bear was a go.

As was the case of several years ago when the Breakfast Club traveled to Bryce Canyon National Park, my wife and I were in Laughlin/Bullhead City as part of another non flying group. With this in mind, our route to Big Bear, would take us over some unfamiliar geography of the southern California deserts. The trip from Bullhead City Airport, was only about 140 miles and would take a mere 1:10. The best part of that was that we did not have to get up at "O-dark-thirty" but we did, however, to factor-in the lead time to get from the Flamingo Hilton Hotel in Laughlin, to the airport on the other side of the Colorado River. One thing that I might add here, was an increase in our learning curve regarding the Bullhead City Airport. We had arrived at about 1530 on Friday afternoon and landed into an interesting crosswind on runway 16. Though this was a bit unusual for such a crosswind on runway 16, the most interesting thing was that the old parking area on the lower south ramp, was no longer in use. At the bottom of the hill where you would normally cross the old runway, you now make a right turn onto the old runway and parking along the west side of the old runway. Another item for the memory banks was that the old "terminal" building, was no longer being used for aviation purposes. After plodding around with our bags for the weekend, we determined that the large white hangar that is immediately north of the old terminal building, was now the center for GA activity.

Sun River Aviation is now the "FBO in charge" for all fueling services, parking fees, flight planning, and for summoning the courtesy vans from the hotel/casinos on the Nevada side of the River. These are essentially the same folks that you had dealt with in the old building but at that time, they had no name. We later learned that there are plans in the works, to develop the entire lower part of the airport, into commercial space featuring a Home Depot. In this case, I believe that they will be missing a bet if they fail to make this the first ever, " fly-in Home Depot"; think of the possibilities.

But, getting back to our Saturday morning departure, we departed runway 16 into some very light winds out of the south and made a right turn to begin a long, arduous climb from about 400', to our final cruise altitude of 8500'. We could not take a direct course to Big Bear due to the Twenty Nine Palms Restricted Area that blocked our path. Instead, we chose a route that would take us over the Hector VOR and then a turn to the southwest to Big Bear. This area of the California desert, is not vastly different than the desert regions that dominates everything west of Blythe. Possibly the only characteristic that would make any distinction, was that there were a few more mountain ridges such as the Granite Mountains and the Providence Mountains that rose to about 7300'. I did notice some very distinctive sand dunes that were comparable to those west of Yuma.

Very early in our flight, I "rung-up" our air-to-air to see if the other Breakfast Club aircraft were en route. I believe that the first reply was BC-3 but they were still east of Parker. Very early on, it was obvious that we would arrive well ahead the balance of the Breakfast Club gaggle. We reported in over the Hector VOR and all we got was "where the hell is that"? Even though I have been using GPS as my primary navigational device for about 5 years, I had also dialed-in the Hector VOR and I used the Goffs VOR to verify our position along our plotted course to Hector. From Hector, we could plainly see the mountains that surrounded the town of Big Bear City. Though the peaks were well above our 8500' cruise altitude, we did ascend to about 9000' to cross into the valley east of the Big Bear Airport and over the dry lake bed. Unicom advised that the winds were out of the east at about 10 kts so we reported right downwind for runway 8 at Big Bear . On our landing roll-out, we noticed that the east half of the ramp, was under repairs and there were no turn-off to the right. We ended-up taxing almost to the east end of the runway before we could turn to the north. We taxied back to the west and it was mid field before we could cross the runway to that portion of the ramp that was still available for parking. We were the first to arrive and I found an open parking spot near the east end of the tie-down line. When we opened the cabin door, we were greeted with the fact that summer had not yet made it to Big Bear . It was only 42 degrees with the 10 kt wind to add a little spice to it. Dressed only in shorts and polo shirts, the sudden chill reminded us that we were not dressed for this climate, after all, we just left the warm desert just a mere 70 minutes earlier, burrrrrrrr. We pushed to plane back into the tie-down line and chocked the front wheel. Normally we would wait around on the ramp to greet the "late" arrivals but with this cold wind blowing, I figured that the rest of the Breakfast Club group would just have to seek us out in the warm confines of the Barnstorm Café .

It turns out that the Barnstorm Café was the target of another fly-in group from the Las Vegas area. In that group was Ken Wyatt and his wife, one of the founding members of SPAA, another Scottsdale based aviation organization. Since we were at least a half hour ahead of the rest of the Breakfast Club group, we chatted with some of the folks from LV. The Barnstorm Café is not a large establishment so two fly-in groups will dominate the entire place. We staked-out three booths and two tables in the main dinning area while awaiting the Breakfast Club group to arrive. In all, 17 folks filled the available seating area to enjoy the hot coffee and breakfast goodies. And speaking of goodies, there is no lack of quantity in any of the entrees. For example, with your custom designed omelet that would have potatoes and toast, you also get a biscuit and gravy or two pancakes. I respectfully declined the toast and biscuits and gravy (out of dietary concern, yeah, right!), but did opt for the pancakes (so much for dietary concern). Everything that I had was just great so it is no wonder that this is such a popular place for the "$100 hamburger" (or ham and eggs).

My wife and I had originally planned to take the trolley ride into town and do some sightseeing but the cold weather put the kibosh on those plans. However, one couple decided to stay the night and another chose the trolley ride into town. As I recall, it cost about a $1.00 to ride the trolley to anywhere in town. So if you wanted to stay the weekend, you could fly-in and use the trolley rather than renting a car unless you wanted to get to the outlying areas. I don't know if the trolley has a route to the north side of the lake where there are some attractions to be found.

With the festivities winding down, we decided that this might be a good time to brave the cold and head back out to aircraft for the trip back to Laughlin. It did not seem to me that it had gotten any warmer than when we had arrived so we did not linger on the ramp while taking the short hike to our parking space. The preflight was cursory to be sure and the relative warmth of the flightdeck (love that term much better than cockpit) was a welcome haven. The winds were still out of the east so runway 8 was still in use. With the cold temperatures and winds down the runway, we lifted-off very quickly for a straight-out departure towards the dry lake bed. Our return trip was a mirror image of our flight in the morning with a few exceptions. One being that the turbulence was much more pronounced and we landed at Bullhead City using runway 34 with just a moderate headwind down the runway. And, oh yes, it was much warmer.

The Big Bear Group

What's Next?

The Breakfast Club has scheduled a weekend event for San Diego during the Memorial Day weekend. We will be arriving San Diego, Montgomery, on Friday afternoon and departing around noon on Monday. Our regularly scheduled day event in June, will see us traveling to a new location of Echo Bay on Lake Mead. July will see us heading-out to another new location of Demming, NM. We have some really neat events coming-up so feel free to join with us on any of them. That's all for now, but remember, fly safe.

Below you will find links to some pictures that John Deptula sent to me, of our Big Bear event.  Just click on the lind and enjoy.  Thanks John for sharing these with us.

Big Bear 1    Big Bear 2    Big Bear 3       Big Bear 4    Big Bear 5    Big  Bear 6

Big Bear 7     Big Bear 8    Big Bear 9