Hello, my dear readers!
Today we’re going to do something a little different–and by that, I mean we’re gonna travel up and down the California coast! As some of you know, I’m a pilot (private pilot, I should clarify) and flying is something I love to do. While I attended Pepperdine University, I had the absolute privilege of flying out of Camarillo, California, to build hours, and so I want to share some of my trips with you guys.
Now this list is in no particular order, and I’ll be honest that I’m writing from my heart. So, yes, these guys are my favorites, but I want you to let me know what your favorites too. This is your journey as well. Imagine yourself as my copilot. You’re up with me in those clouds, so take a moment to relax, put on some sunglasses, and see California from up above.
Now, a quick little disclaimer: Our home airport is Camarillo, a beautiful city in the Ventura area, about an hour and a half (with no traffic, let me remind you) north of Los Angeles. Sometimes it is my humble opinion that flying outside of Camarillo is pointless, due to how pretty it is (especially at sunset!). But, alas, a pilot normally likes to fly places. And our plane? The grand old Cessna 172, the plane of anyone’s dreams. So let’s get going. Got your bags? Bring some water. And a smile! 🙂
Let’s get going.
1. PASO ROBLES, CALIFORNIA
Paso Robles, oh Paso Robles! Nestled within the Central Coast and a short drive from the beautiful Pacific, Paso is a town that reminds me of a small town America out East. It definitely doesn’t have a strong California vibe to it (okay, the gas prices make it Californian), but it’s got some of the friendliest people and one of my favorite airports in the state. (I flew so much there this past autumn that I got repeatedly teased by flight instructors who kept saying, “Stop going north, Katie! All the best places are south into L.A.!” Um… Debatable.)
Paso Robles is located between flat desert and mountains lining the coast, so it’s got dual views of different biomes. Plus, considering that we’re flying there at sunset, you’ll get to see the beauty of a California twilight without too much light pollution. In a way, Paso reminds me of California before it became overdeveloped (yes, in my opinion, Southern California is overdeveloped. No hate, just stating a fact).
So, yes. When we fly to Paso, it feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere. But that’s the magic of it, especially coming from a heavily populated area. This flight proves that there is more to California than just the major cities, and there is still ample beauty to find.
2. CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA
Carlsbad’s a fun flight, especially since we’re going to be flying directly over Los Angeles, one of the busiest regions of the United States. Terrified? No fear at all! There are published routes for us to fly (this means that we can fly our little Cessna 172 directly over Los Angeles International Airport as long as we stay at a certain altitude and course).
The reason Carlsbad is on this list is due to the challenge of flying over L.A. in the midst of huge passenger jets. Again, the VFR (visual flight rules) routes make everything safe and legal to do, but one of the wildest experiences in my flying was “jetting” along at 5,500 feet and watching as a bunch of A380s (the largest passenger airliner) are taking off right under you.
So, yeah. We’re cruising along, Los Angeles on one side, the Pacific on the other. The views are incredible, overpowering, and thrilling to say the least. But it actually goes by pretty fast, and the next thing you know it, you’re talking to SoCal Approach and headed for Carlsbad, just north of San Diego.
Carlsbad’s an idyllic town that feels old school in comparison to the busyness of Los Angeles. That being said, Palomar Airport has a sloped runway and can be busy at times. So let’s hope they’re not too busy when we arrive, and we can stop and get a bite at the quaint restaurant there. (Maybe we’ll even take a moment to bother my friend Matt who’s lucky enough to live there.)
3. SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA
San Luis Obispo was one of my first cross country destinations when I was training for my private pilot license, and it’s quite the place to fly. It’s a quick flight, has a nice restaurant I’ve never been to, and it’s nestled in some beautiful mountains that turn emerald after winter rains.
Our flight is only an hour or so, but it’s one of the best flights a VFR pilot can experience. That’s right: You get to pass over Santa Barbara, head up the mountains, and soak in the knowledge that you’re floating in the atmosphere in a Cessna 172. And when it’s dark outside, you get a view of the star-studded sky.
Down below is an image taken of the final leg of our journey into San Luis Obispo. Gorgeous. Stunning. Picture perfect! And when you look at it with your own eyes, it makes it even more real that sometimes all you need to clear your head is a plane, a destination, and the knowledge that it’s only you, your copilot, and God. 🙂
4. MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA
One of my good friends is from Monterey, which probably makes me more biased than most, but I’m going to do some recommending for you: Get yourself to Monterey for real. The flight from Camarillo to Monterey’s two hours one-way (about an hour north of San Luis Obispo, flight time wise). So we’re going to see the beautiful Santa Barbara region, cruise up the sparsely populated Central Coast (in comparison to Southern California), and ATC will eventually become NorCal approach. That’s right: We’ve made it to Northern California!
Monterey is just south of San Francisco, but it’s definitely not San Francisco. Monterey is famous for Monterey Bay, the fantastic aquarium named after the Bay, and the sweet nearby hamlet called Carmel-by-the-Sea. So basically this flight allows us to head into one of California’s most romantically beautiful spots among private jets and other thrill-seekers. ❤
My friend and I flew up to Monterey one day, and we both could not handle how beautiful it was. The runway faces the water, so when you come in it feels like something out of a movie. When we waited for fuel, we were treated with kindness and respect (despite the fact we were the only general aviation plane there), and we ended up hanging out to watch the jets take off. (With free ice cream!) Though I have since left California, this flight to Monterey will always be one of my favorites.
5. VICTORVILLE, CALIFORNIA
Now, our flight to Victorville is way different than our other locations. While we flew to Monterey for beauty and Carlsbad for a challenge, Victorville’s got an entirely different appeal. Yes, that’s right: We’re going to climb over the mountains and head for the desert.
A quick one hour flight from Camarillo, Victorville is famous for its airplane graveyard. That’s right: A bunch of old airplanes are just, well, there. Which is pretty cool when you’re a 172 pilot who’s just trying to build time and live life. So, yeah, you’re going to see the Boeing 737 MAX as well, as in the airplanes that have been grounded for safety issues this past year. There’s a handful at this airport!
When I visited Victorville in October last year, I also ended up running into a Royal Air Force plane. I got there fifteen minutes after it landed, so unfortunately I did not run into any of the pilots or crew, but I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was practically standing in a movie scene. (Abandoned airplanes, quiet airport, and the Royal Air Force just happened to be in town?) Told ya: Flying is an interesting business!
6. CAMARILLO, CALIFORNIA
Camarillo will always have my heart. It is where I learned to fly, soloed, and got my license. Now that I’m away from it, I’m truly saddened because it is the end of a phase. That being said, I will never forget how amazing an opportunity it was, and here’s a special shoutout to the air traffic controllers at this airport–they’re some of the friendliest in the game!
So as we’re landing back in good old Camarillo, still in our imaginary sunset phase, let’s remember that each flight is a blessing. It’s an opportunity to see God’s beautiful Earth (whether it is green or deserty), and that each flight brings a lesson with it. ❤
THANK YOU FOR YOUR COPILOT SKILLS.
There we go, my dear readers! Thank you again for joining me on this journey, and I hope you got to escape for a little bit. My goal is to write more travel-centered posts in the coming months, because now that I am not traveling as much I miss it a lot, and also because it gives us creative types a free vacation, right? 🙂 (Or is everything ever really free… Random musings from Katie Kay.)
Until next time,
P.S. Hi, just letting all my awesome supporters know that my little sister, Genevieve, is so amazing. She is so so so so so so so so wonderful, and I am so lucky to have her in my life.