Death Valley Trip Report 2003
(with Flat Stanley :-)

by Paul A. Rosales

It was the perfect time of year (January) for our yearly trip to Death Valley so we put the word out for any and all RVs to join us for a fun daytrip. The trip was in support of a student project request from our niece Rachel who sent us Flat Stanley all the way from Plano, TX. For the Flat Stanley readers, RVs are custom-built, 180+ mile per hour, two-seat sport aircraft. Each plane is individually built over several years from kits purchased from Van's Aircraft. People from all walks of life have built RVs, and previous building experience is not required. My wife Victoria and I were first time builders, and we spent 5 years and ~3000 hours in the garage building our garage at home. We fly somewhere every weekend! We buckled up Flat Stanley and then taxied to the fuel pump where we met up with Rick ‘Indy’ Smith (RV-6 based Oxnard) on the ramp at of our home airport, Rosamond, CA. After fueling, we departed southeast then east to skirt Edwards Air Force Base R-2515. Indy was unable to join us for the entire trip but we were able to get a picture of him over the Mojave Desert. This view is looking south from the Antelope Valley with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background. Greater Los Angeles is just over the hill.

Indy broke off and we continued towards Barstow. Flat Stanley saw a HUGE train yard that was quite colorful.

We met up with Gary Sobek and Annette Colfax (RV-6) and Chuck/Pam Miller (RV-8A) over Daggett (DAG) VOR and continued east/northeast avoiding Army Fort Irwin R-2502N.

Over Baker (0O2) airport, we turned north entering Death Valley at its most southern end and flew 5500’ enjoying the desert-mountain scenery. The floor of Death Valley can be seen in the (center) north view looking over the nose of the airplane with Death Valley's Furnace Creek (L06) airport 'hiding' in the dry lake bed. L-R: West, North, East views

A 3-ship formation pass over the Furnace Creek was followed by an overhead break to runway 33. Prior to landing, Annette was able to get some formation pictures of Chuck and I:

Here’s Flat Stanley ‘buckled’ in with Victoria and another looking north up the valley. You can see the same dry lake in the distance behind Flat Stanley.

While tying the planes down, Flat Stanley went for a short ride on a Mule. He liked it!

It’s about a quarter to half-mile walk up the road to the Furnace Creek Ranch and that’s where we had a great lunch in the ranch-style café. You can't see him well but Flat Stanley is there with Victoria :-)

After lunch, we spent time visiting the museum that has LOTS of great things to see dating back over 100 years: Trains, wagons, engines, mule was great! Flat Stanley read about some of the history of Death Valley whose desert floor lies below sea level. The lowest elevation for all Death Valley is Badwater at minus (-)282 feet. That's about the length of 6 school buses below the ocean!

It was time to walk back to the airport where we found ourselves walking more so below sea level!

After getting all buckled in, we took off northbound. Chuck/Pam headed for home while Gary/I flew a 2-ship north towards Scotty's Castle. There is also a meteor crater nearby that we overflew. Gary/Annette turned for home while Victoria/I/Flat Stanley turned westbound and climbed to 9000' to crossover the Panamint Mountain Range into the Owens Valley. While doing so, I had a GREAT idea!!! We had just flown Flat Stanley to the lowest point in the USA at Death Valley: Why not fly him to the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney! We were not far at all as Mt. Whitney (+14,494 ft) is RV-minutes west of Scotty's Castle so off we went! With oxygen onboard, the RV had no problem climbing nearly 3 miles high! We snapped a few pictures flying over Mt. Whitney, the peak of which is just left of Flat Stanley. We'd never been there before and didn't know there was a shelter for hikers at the top.

We were getting hungry and knew that we had a friend in nearby Bishop so we started down: from 14K+ down to 4K feet. It was SPECTACULAR flying along the Sierra's, smothered in snow, and we landed about 15 minutes later at Bishop (BIH) airport. We tied the plane down and before the sun went down, we took one more picture of Flat Stanley with the snowy Sierra's behind him!

A call to our friend Dorthy Krueger, Mom to Van's Chief Engineer Ken Krueger, had her gladly picking us up at the airport. Many of you have had a chance to meet Dorthy at numerous fly-ins she travels to in her motor home! She first took us to the Mountain Light gallery to see some truly beautiful photography taken by the late Galen & Barbara Rowell. This was followed by our treat to a super BBQ dinner at BBQ Bill's! Flat Stanley passed on the BBQ but had salad instead...We very much enjoyed our impromptu visit with Dorthy! We tookoff southbound with a full moon off our left wing and the brightest, whitest snow reflecting off our right wing. That was, by far, the most awesome night flight we've ever flown, in an airplane that we built at home! It was a great day, and we were happy that we could share it with Flat Stanley!

Keep poundin' them rivets: It's all worth it! Paul & Victoria

Back to travel stories at or to Paul & Victoria's travel stories

Homepage URL:

Webmaster: Paul Rosales