We have a couple of folding e-bikes from Citizen Bikes that we purchased specifically to take in the plane and use at our destinations. I am embarrassed to say that while they have been used some since we got them 18 months ago, they had yet to find their way to the airport and into our Mooney. Although I measured the baggage door and compartment, then compared those to the specs of the Citizen London 20″ e-bike, I wasn’t 100% sure that I could put one through the baggage door.
Today was the day to find out. We were initially going to fly to Big Bear for an Independence Day breakfast and then cruise around the town on our e-bikes, but changed plans and decided to go to Santa Paula (KSZP). Santa Paula is really a hidden gem of an airport. It doesn’t have all the notoriety of Camarillo and the Waypoint Café (which is extremely overrated) but I’m okay with that. It is tucked away in the Santa Clara River Valley and I’m not sure why it doesn’t get more traffic, unless pilots are scared off by flying into an un-towered field with no weather reporting and a 2,665′ runway.
The Flight 126 Café has excellent food with a great view of the runway and the planes coming and going. There is an aerobatics box east of the field and that brings some fun planes for your viewing enjoyment. And let’s be honest, most GA planes should be able to land at a 2,665′ field.
The bikes were charged and I folded them, put them in the carry bags, and into the truck. I filed a VFR flight plan, got my briefing, and we headed to the airport. It was still forecast to be overcast at LAX so instead of using the Special Flight Rules Area I planned to depart to the north staying under the Bravo before turning west.
However, the first challenge was getting the bikes in the plane. My measurements were good (although with only a couple inches to spare) and one bike went through the baggage door into the baggage compartment an the other through the cabin door and on the back seat.
We joined a T-34 in the run-up area, a fun way to start the flight.
The clouds were broken at 2,400′ and while LAX and Santa Monica were showing overcast, Santa Barbara, Van Nuys, El Monte, and everything east were showing clear skies. I knew that we could head north until the clouds broke up and we could climb to our cruising altitude.
It was the best kind of flight, uneventful. We dropped into the Santa Clara River Valley about seven miles east of KSZP, flew an upwind , crossed over mid-field, entered a left downwind for runway 22 and came around for a nice landing. They aren’t all like that, but this one the wheels just kissed the runway ever so gently as we touched down.
We stopped at the fuel pumps for some “less expensive” fuel, there’s no such thing as cheap fuel anymore. I love small airports, you never know who you might run into. There was a gentleman filling the fuel truck from one of the pumps and came over to chat. He has an M20J and previously had an M20E. He saw my hat and the logo on my plane’s vertical stabilizer and asked if that was my business. “No, just my blog that I write,” I responded. “I’ll have to look it up,” he said.
It took 32 gallons to fill the plane, but was worth it with the price $1.32/gal less than my home base of KFUL. After putting the hose away I took him one of my cards that has the website and my contact information.
“Here’s my website if you’re interested,” I said as I handed him the card.
“Thanks, I’ll check it out,” he responded.
“It’s not too exciting, just a guy writing about flying,” I told him.
“Great, I like that stuff,” he said with a smile.
I started up the plane and taxied over to a tie-down in transient parking and we walked over to the restaurant. As usual, the food was excellent. I had the Denver Omelet with country potatoes and an English Muffin. Kathy had their daily breakfast special, French toast with whip cream, blueberries and strawberries, along with eggs and bacon. It’s a good thing this was breakfast and lunch…
Back at the plane it was more of a struggle than it should have been to get the bike out of the baggage door. Apparently when I put it in, I had gone in wheels first, but then rolled it over once inside. That resulted in taking it out backwards, which did not work as well. Eventually I got it figured out and both bikes were reassembled and ready to go.
During breakfast we had looked up bike trails and decided on the Santa Paula Branch Line Trail. It starts at the Agriculture Museum just west of 10th Street and ends near Peck Road and Main Street where you turn around and go back. It is a nice little trail with the old railroad tracks on one side and an almost unbroken line of bushes and flowers along the other. With the e-bikes it was an easy ride.
We stopped outside the Agriculture Museum on the return trip to take a picture and then next to a beautiful rose garden next to the old train station for another. The breeze blowing across the rose garden towards us carried the beautiful scent of the roses.
Back at the airport I folded the bikes up and put them back in the plane, careful to pay attention to the direction the one going into the baggage compartment went to avoid repeating the difficulties I had getting it out the first time. We also had the pleasure of meeting another great young couple. They were taking pictures with their twins infants next to a beautiful Super Cadet. My wife asked if they would like her to take pictures so they could all be in them and they gladly accepted.
He is in the Coast Guard and they just moved back to SoCal as he is now stationed at Point Mugu. They had been living in Alaska on Kodiak Island and he had flown their plane down following the ALCAN highway. They are both pilots and with a smile she said she “let him” fly it down this time. As I mentioned earlier, I love small airports because you just seem to run into some of the nicest people. You just won’t have the same experience if you are flying into a bigger airport and pulling up in front of a large FBO.
Although it was still hazy, the remnants of the morning marine layer in the LA Basin were long gone. We departed to the west on runway 22 and made a left turn heading for the coast. At 3,500′ the air was smooth and the views were incredible. The June heat had long since turned the green hills brown, but that only served to accentuate the blue of the water along the coast. We flew past Point Dume, Malibu, and Pacific Palisades before turning southeast over Santa Monica, then right over the top of LAX via the Special Flight Rules Area.
Fullerton Tower instructed us to enter right traffic for runway 24 north of the KFI antenna. There was other traffic at KFUL and the tower was ending each final transmission to a plane with “Happy Independence Day.”
As we were rolling out he gave me my taxi instructions.
Tower: “Mooney 878, taxi to parking via Echo Alpha.”
Me: “Taxi Echo Alpha, Happy 4th of July.”
Tower: “Happy Independence day.”