A320, a full 6 seats wide as opposed to the 5-abreast of the MD-80s on the normal Tucson non-stops. While the flight was "full", we were literally in the back row, and actually weren't scheduled to sit together... We found someone that would swap center seats with Melinda (a couple rows ahead), and since there were a couple empty seats a couple rows up, the woman on the aisle moved up (she needed to recline, and you can't in the rear-most seat), leaving us a little extra room. The advantage of the A320 windows is that while a little smaller than our usual planes, this one seemed almost optical quality, with no pitting or scratches! Things were looking up!
Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5 mile banked racetrack for NASCAR events, and is adjacent to Route 66 Raceway, which has a dragstrip and .5 mile dirt oval - serving all your racing needs! Part of the dragstrip is seen at far right, and the dirt oval is off the frame to the right as well.
This being the Midwest, the view out the
window wasn't nearly this clear, but was quite hazy. The last (right-most) image that the program wouldn't align actually had a well-known landmark. The original frame out of the camera is shown at left. At right is shown the same image with levels set separately for each color channel and manipulated a little to retain as much detail as possible. One of the tricks I use when knowing that the files will be reduced in size for the blog is that I do a Gaussian blur on the original frames, then reduce the image size to that desired, then use unsharp mask a bit to slightly sharpen. It seems to reduce the noise in the original frame a bit. These frames were taken with the kit lens set to 70mm, and is shown in these images at full resolution. We passed the airport a minute later, so I figure we were about 16 miles away from the 630 foot (192m) tall Gateway Arch.
Given how hazy it was in the St Louis area, I was wondering what the distance to the horizon was. Of course, as we continued west, the haze was reduced, the humidity went down, as well as particulates. After an hour or so of flying and taking pictures of clouds and unknown landforms, I figured we were into New Mexico. One of the easy-to-spot landforms in New Mexico is the White Sands area in the south-central part of the state. Gazing off to the far southern horizon, in a little while I convinced myself I could see a skinny white strip far to the south. Almost immediately we passed a small town with distinctive highway structure (I-25), then 5 minutes later came over Albuquerque. Backtracking on Google Maps, the little town was Rowe, NM, shown at left. Between those two metropolii, I imaged what I thought was White Sands in the distance, shown at right. Sure enough, Google Maps confirms, with the Oscura Mountains to the left, the San Andres to the right, the smaller Mockingbird Mountains between, and in the far distance the Organ Mountains which are 225 miles away from where we were!
my recent mention of the Rio Grande, we passed it 10 days before going east when we passed Socorro, about 60 miles to the south. Note that atop the Sandias the trees were displaying their Fall colors...
Theodore Roosevelt Lake surrounded by parched desert terrain. Roosevelt Lake is the largest and oldest of the 6 reservoirs that are part of the Salt River Project. The image at left is cropped from a 3-frame mosaic. Off in the far distance (125 miles away!) is Mount Graham, home of the Large Binocular Telescope. Also visible beyond the first mountain range are some of the open pit copper mines near Globe, Arizona.
Another 15 minutes of flying and we were entering the northern 'burbs of Phoenix. While I rarely editorialize, it seems crazy that there seems to be the highest per capita number of golf courses I've ever seen! And if it isn't golf courses, it is lakefront housing - in a city that gets typically 8 inches of rain a year! Compare these neighborhoods to those of Chicago in our previous post... Of course, they get nearly 5 times the rainfall...
Central Arizona Project. Water is diverted from the Colorado River and runs over 300 miles across open desert. My buddy Valerie used to work for the water department here in Tucson and told me once that well over half the water that starts the trip is lost to evaporation and leaching through the canal walls... Here it is shown traversing the same northern suburbs and heads south to irrigate cotton fields and other crops before heading down to Tucson. And Tucson isn't the end of the line, as they extend the water for mining use south of the city too.
Finally we were on final approach - thankfully cameras are now approved to be powered on for takeoff and landing, so I was able to take a few snapshots as we passed downtown Phoenix. The major interchange of I-17 and I-10 seemed particularly interesting. And though the baseball season of the Arizona Diamondbacks had ended a few days before, they had the roof of the ballpark open to keep the turf alive. Unlike the new football stadium where the turf rolls outside for sunshine on a rail system, BOB (the former Band-One Ballpark, now boringly Chase Field) does it the old fashioned way with a retractable roof. One of the interesting things to note is the swimming pool in straightaway center field! No, not for bullpen pitchers to relax, but for fans to watch the game from a pool! Of course, the water must be cold with the roof closed for most games (Summer in Phoenix, you know), and the interior of the ball park air conditioned to 72 degrees...
We needed to traverse the airport to catch the puddle-jumper down to Tucson. That plane suffered from pretty bad windows, so no more pictures. But it was fun while it lasted. It was great to spend the afternoon musing the country passing by!