Ultralight Trip 4-28-2002
Pierce Field, Matagorda
Saturday was very windy... I don't think it ever got below 20mph. We did a couple of turns around the home field, but that was it! Sunday was pretty pleasant --by comparison -- with winds 10-15mph, so off we went on our next adventure!
At the last minute, I decided I wanted to go a little further down the Matagorda Peninsula to Pierce Field. It's only 12 miles past our visit to the abandoned airstrip on the 13th (you can read that story here), but it seemed a worthy destination.
Traveling over familiar territory always makes it seem like the trip goes faster, and there's less stress. So although it's a bit of a long trip -- especially in such a spontaneous manner -- I knew it wouldn't be too bad. My brother was getting pretty comfortable with his new Challenger, and I had a new way to hook up an MP3 player to my headset! And, as I always say, there's always something new to see, even over the same routes.
Rather than heading directly for the beach, we split our heading between Freeport and Lake Jackson. To my left, I see the tall bridge leading to Surfside Beach. Just a moment later, I get a good look at Freeport harbor. The tall structure to the right side of the main channel is a jack-up rig which has been there... well, for a long time! But not as long as the jetty. It was originally constructed in 1899.
Then I notice a large tanker ship being pushing into place by a couple of hard-working tug boats. Just beyond the tanker is the IntraCoastal Waterway, where there is almost always a barge pushing something around. Just before we turn toward the Gulf, I see a new bridge that is being constructed.
It isn't long before we finally reach the beach. Jim flies over large amounts of driftwood on the beach near Bryan Beach State Park. He's getting more confident (braver? more foolish?<g>) on each trip, too, as he proves when he goes a visitin' these two shrimp boats that are about 500 yards off-shore.
I'm pleasantly distracted by the bay side of the thin barrier islands (ok, ok, so I'm also playing with my MP3 player, trying to get the volume up so I can hear La Bamba over the Rotax engine!), and before I know it, we're flying over the abandoned airstrip! When we were here two weeks ago, I had forgotten to take a picture, so I decided to swing around and take another shot.
Although this is now "new" territory for us, Jim enjoys flying low down by the waters edge. It's only 12 miles to Pierce, so, in less than 12 minutes, we're there. As you can see, the runway kinda-sorta looks like dirt! I didn't think it was supposed to be, so I was a little surprised. But, we were here, so it was time to land. When I was about 20 feet above the runway, I finally saw that it was simply a dusty colored concrete.
The runway was very long, and I didn't know exactly where to stop, so I just taxied down until I saw a windsock, then pulled off the runway. Jim was right behind me, and I took this picture of him taxiing up. You can see the runway consists of blocks of concrete, with not a little grass and weeds growing through.
I exit my plane and bring the extra gas can around to mix the oil. Jim hops out of his, but it's facing downwind. He has this pet theory that a plane on the ground is more stable in the wind if it's pointed downwind since the wind should push down on the wings. As he walks toward me, I look past him to see his plane starting to roll away. "Jim!" I yell and point, "You'd better go catch your plane!" I think his theory was rolling down the runway... hahaha... I laughed pretty hard at his expense, but he's a good sport!
I noticed a cactus a few yards away (not too common northeast of this point), and strolled over to take a picture, when, just then, a car pulls up. (We always seem to attract a crowd!) Two gents get out and I ask permission to refuel. They are very polite and say they didn't mind a bit. They were, in fact, fascinated. "We've never seen a plane like this before!" The younger man introduces himself as Mr. Pierce for whom the airfield is named. (I'm not sure it wasn't actually named for his father or grandfather, but I didn't have time to find out!) The other gentleman was his father, I believe.
They oo'd and ah'd over the planes as I quickly refueled. Jim was carrying auxiliary wing tanks on this trip and could "refuel" while in the air, but he double-checked them to make sure the gas was transferring properly. In this picture you can see the windsock standing out pretty straight. We seemed to have a headwind both ways, today -- kind of like going uphill both ways to school. And our daylight was running out, so we had to wave goodbye and be on our way.
Upon takeoff, I couldn't resist a long, gradual circle around the field. I looked back and could see the airfield sitting between the bay and the Gulf. Just bayside of the field were three shrimp trawlers, two of them stern-to-stern. I then looked around and got an even better view of the airfield. And almost below me by this point was a small fishcamp.
Then I look back, over my shoulder, looking further southwest, towards the "unknown" and see the Matagorda Ship Channel and Decros Point beyond. I'm sure that we'll travel beyond that on our next trip down this way. But now we have to head home because the sun is going down.
As we buzz down the beach, I get busy with my camera, taking pictures of various items we come across: part of a buoy, a makeshift lean-to (is there any other kind?), another part of a buoy, and lots and lots of seaweed. It occurs to me: there's an awful lot of trash... we should be more careful about keeping our world clean. I then took a picture... an "almost" pretty picture.
Jim and I are having a grand time... the wind along the beach tends to always be less bumpy than inland. Today, despite the prevailing wind from the ocean -- or, maybe, because of it -- it was very smooth. I'm again enjoying some music on the flight back.
The Colorado River outlet approaches and we spot some surfers in the water. I grab a quick shot of the Matagorda Jetty as it passes close by. The amazing thing is that, not that long ago -- less than 100 years -- the town of Matagorda was right on the water. Due to the silt carried down by the Colorado River, the town is now about 6 miles from the Gulf, and Matagorda Bay's northern finger has been cut in half.
Before long, we're crossing the San Bernard River outlet. On the other side, we spot a herd of cattle on the beach. Soon we are passing the no-man's land just shy of Bryan Beach State Park, and very shortly we're cruising down Quintana Beach, waving at all the late Sunday afternoon beachgoers.
At this point, we decide to save a bit of time and head straight back. We climb as quickly as we can -- I spot another barge going down the IntraCoastal -- and are soon above and around Freeport. The tanker that was being pushed around by tugboats when I passed by earlier is now snuggled into its bearth.
As I cross over Bastrop Bayou, the sun is hiding behind the clouds, the evening air is thick with humidity. I'm ready to find the home field, but first I see something whimsical: an empty trailer park with a nest of bee hives... they are wondering, "Now why don't people stay here?"
Finally, a last look at the sunset before I descend. Time in the air, about 3 hours. It was sweet!
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And, to read other exciting stories of my flights around Texas, go to: