To Fly or Ride

Back in June, 2012 I rode my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 to Colorado and back, a loop trip of 5,000+ miles over 15 riding days, passing through 10 states. [You can read my riding blog here.] Once I began learning to fly in my home flight simulator, it became my goal to simulate that trip as closely as possible in a virtual Cessna 172.

The trip in my flight simulator has been ongoing since late June and is nearly complete. I only have one leg remaining. My plane is currently parked at Grant County Regional Field [KGCD] in John Day, Oregon, with my final destination of Troutdale, Oregon.

Throughout this trip, I have attempted to mimic the actual route I rode on my motorcycle as closely as possible, following primary waypoints at major junctions. I have also landed at the nearest airport to the places where I stopped each day for lunch. This means that each day’s simulated leg entailed at least two take-offs and two landings.

Recently, I experimented with early morning take-offs to see what lighting conditions look like in X-Plane 11. The results are amazing, but I noticed that in cities with custom scenery (Ortho4XP), the lights are nearly non-existent. Only stock scenery has the great lighting effects.

I flew from Red Lodge, Montana up and over Beartooth Pass and across Yellowstone Park to land for my mid-day stop at West Yellowstone. I took a screenshot of my cockpit.

The cockpit of a Cessna 172 during an early morning flight over Beartooth pass, Montana

I landed at Butte, Montana. The following day, I took off from Butte and flew to Grangeville, Idaho. I simulated real-world weather conditions and barely survived the landing. I had a constant cross-wind of 12 knots with gusts up to 21 knots. This shot me diagonally across the runway, coming to a stop on the adjacent taxiway. Suddenly a gust of over 60 knots hit my plane broadside and flipped it into the air and over onto its top. It’s my only crash of the entire trip so far.

Morning take-off in a Cessna 172 from Grangeville, ID

The take-off from Grangeville the next morning was stunning. I left a few minutes before sunrise and the scenery and lighting was very life-like.

From there, I mimicked my bike route to Oxbow, Oregon along the Snake River at Hells Canyon, then over to Baker City where I landed for lunch. The day ended at John Day, Oregon.

This trip has been an excellent learning experience. The airstrips and airports have been diverse. Flying in Colorado was a special challenge because of the high elevation airstrips and numerous 14,000+ mountain passes. Some take-offs required circling like a bird to gain enough altitude to move forward.

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