May Mountain Adventure

In May 2023, Katherine and I (and our dog Magic) took our 1984 Mooney M20J on a flying 'road trip' from Orlando, FL to Salt Lake City, crossing the Rockies twice and making a stop in Leadville, CO and lots of states in between. Lots of photos and details about the flights linked below.

Trip Overview Photos

Shaky Knees Festival

Shaky Knees Festival

Departing Orlando, and Shaky Knees 2023 in Atlanta, GA.

The Midwest

The Midwest

St. Louis, Kansas City, Dodge City, and Wichita.

The Rockies - Westbound

The Rockies - Westbound

Crossing the Rocky Mountains while dodging some light rain on our way west.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

Exploring Salt Lake City and The Great Salt Lake.

The Rockies - Eastbound

The Rockies - Eastbound

Making our way back east through the Rockies with a stop in Leadville (LXV).

The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home

Making the long hops back across the plains states.

About Us

We are Ryan, Katherine, and Magic!

About Us
About Us

A little bit about me

I bought my Mooney in January 2021 with the intention of making serious cross-country adventure flights. In 2021, Katherine and I made a similar (much longer!) flight with our dog (Magic, a Cavalier King Charles) all across the western US. That was our first exposure to serious cross-country GA flying and we both found that we absolutely loved it and planned to do more. In Summer 2022 we explored the Northeast US. We've decided to make a big GA 'road trip' a sort of annual tradition for us. Our general goal is to visit all of the lower 48 states with the airplane, and maybe even Alaska.

Fortunately, both Katherine and I work remotely as Engineering Managers, which makes the whole 'flying nomad' thing possible for us. (Both in terms of flexibility and the significant costs of endeavours like this) Other than these cross-country flights, most of my flying is instructional, I'm a part-time independent CFII in Orlando and I instruct a few days a week my own enjoyment and love of teaching.

For this trip, we set out from Orlando, FL on May 5th with the goal of seeing the Rocky Mountains and visiting Salt Lake City. I had a 'bonus' goal in mind of landing in Leadville, CO, the highest airport in North America. We had a general idea that the trip would take around 3 weeks to complete, plus or minus. As with my other trips, I had only vaguely planned the first couple stops, and planned to be as flexible as possible, and booking hotels last minute, etc. Ultimately this trip took just over 2 weeks, and we finished in less time than I planned. This time, we did have to make a couple diversions due to weather, so our strategy of not pre-booking hotels continued to pay dividends and help me avoid get-there-itis.

Before departure, the only 'fixed' point was our first stop in Atlanta, GA, where we had Platinum VIP passes to Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta. This was my Christmas gift to Katherine, since she and I are big fans of Muse, and they were headlining. Beyond that, I planned to try to meet up with a friend of mine who is a traveling stand-up comedian and was doing shows somewhere in the midwest. Otherwise, it was just going to be watching the weather and trying to time our legs to give me ideal weather for crossing the Rockies. I didn't quite manage totally ideal (with there being a good amount of cloudiness and light rain in places), but the winds aloft were very calm and the ride was smooth.

I mainly filed IFR for the flights east of the Rockies for simplicity, and everything west of the Rockies was done VFR. We carried a Garmin inReach Mini onboard for tracking purposes, especially in the more remote parts of the trip.

The Airplane

This is N374SM, our 1984 Mooney M20J.

  • 1984 Mooney M20J 201
  • Typical Cruise: 160 KTAS @ 12 gph
  • Fuel: 64 gal usable
  • Equipment: Garmin G3X Touch w/ EIS, GTN 650Xi, GFC 500 Autopilot, GTX 345, SiriusXM Datalink Weather (First big trip with the new panel, installed December 2022)

Trip Stats

  • Total Distance: 4,302 nm
  • Direct Distance: 3,783 nm
  • States Visited: 9
  • Hours Logged: 32.2 (All daytime, 3.9 IMC)
  • Total Days: 16
  • Flying Days: 11
  • Legs: 15 (6 VFR, 9 IFR)
  • Longest Leg: Jackson, MS (KHKS) to Orlando, FL (KORL) - 3.5 hrs - 514nm (direct) - 531nm (actual)
  • Longest Day: Wichita, KS (KAAO) to Pueblo, CO (KPUB) to Grand Junction, CO (KGJT) - 5.4 hrs - 732 nm
  • Shortest Leg: Leadville, CO (KLXV) to Colorado Springs, CO (KCOS) - 0.9 hrs - 80nm (direct) - 101nm (actual)
  • Approaches Flown: 1 ILS (KPWA)
  • Fuel Purchased: 312.8 gal - $2,210.23 ($7.07/gal avg)
  • FBO Services / Overnights / Fees - $212

Trip Legs

Leg 1 - Orlando, FL to Atlanta, GA

The adventure begins with Shaky Knees 2023 and Platinum VIP tickets to see Muse.

Leg 2 - Atlanta, GA to St. Louis, MO (IL)

Visiting St. Louis with a flyby of the Gateway Arch.

Leg 3 - St. Louis, MO (IL) to Kansas City, MO

Hanging out in KC for a couple days.

Leg 4 - Kansas City, MO to Dodge City, KS

Losing a race with the weather and making an unplanned stop in Dodge.

Leg 5 - Dodge City, KS to Wichita, KS

Back to Wichita to see a friend do standup comedy.

Leg 6 - Wichita, KS to Pueblo, CO

Into Colorado and the first glimpse of the Rockies.

Leg 7 - Pueblo, CO to Grand Junction, CO

Winding through the mountain passes across the Rockies, with a loop around Crested Butte.

Leg 8 - Grand Junction, CO to Salt Lake City, UT

Heading to SLC, with a flyby of Arches National Park near Moab.

Leg 9 - Salt Lake City, UT to Grand Junction, CO

Dodging rain showers on the way out of Salt Lake Valley, and another flyby of Castle Valley.

Leg 10 - Grand Junction, CO to Leadville, CO

An early morning flight through Tennessee Pass and landing at Leadville (9934ft MSL).

Leg 11 - Leadville, CO to Colorado Springs, CO

A flyby of Pikes Peak on the way to Colorado Springs and visiting Garden of the Gods.

Leg 12 - Colorado Springs, CO to Oklahoma City, OK

A very rainy and overcast flight back Eastbound to OKC.

Leg 13 - Oklahoma City, OK to Hot Springs, AR

Stopping for some pizza in Arkansas.

Leg 14 - Hot Springs, AR to Jackson, MS

Another unplanned diversion, spending the night in Mississippi.

Leg 15 - Jackson, MS to Orlando, FL

Homeward bound, an easy final leg back to Orlando and a pool party!

Final thoughts

We had an incredible time on this trip, and seeing the Rockies and the beautiful Salt Lake Valley from the air was very special. We've now been to 39 states and 2 Canadian provinces in the airplane and I think we will definitely hit all of the lower 48 soon :) GA flying is a great way to see the country!