My first glimpse was from the observation lounge of the Pacific superliner as it winded around the curve past the California Men’s Colony into the city of San Luis Obispo. Nestled in the valley approximately midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, away from the maddening crowd yet within easy distance, San Luis Obispo or SLO as the locals fondly call it, is a small campus town of 40000 plus inhabitants mostly students, and staff of the nearby CalPoly (California Polytechnical State University) and retirees. Founded in 1772 it is one of California’s oldest colonies famous for its Mission San Luis and Thursday night Farmer’s Market. Where Jamba Juice was first established as the Juice Club and aviation legend Burt Rutan went to college, home of the eccentric Madonna Inn established by Alex Madonna, I Madonnari Italian street painting festival (usually hosted in September) and Bubble Gum Alley.To me it is and will always be Home Sweet Home!
San Luis Obispo airport (SBP) offers convenient access to residents and visitors to/from the central coast to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix. It is also a full service general aviation airport with several FBO on the field. If flying in from northern or southern California the coastal route is the most scenic. Flying south from the Monterey coast affords spectacular views of the Big Sur coast, Hearst Castle and Morro Rock. Approaching from the south along the Santa Barbara coastline be aware of the restricted areas surrounding the Vandenberg Air Force Base and the flight restrictions over the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
The Spirit of San Luis on the field provides excellent cuisine options for that $100 hamburger. General aviation pilots can park right outside the restaurant near the base of the control tower. Outside as well as inside seating provides marvelous views of arriving and departing aircraft. If you like me fancy rating landings, take an outside seat! For the more adventurous, ride into town for an array of dining choices in downtown SLO. Drive 40 miles north along the pacific coast freeway to tour the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon, designed by architect Julia Morgan for the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Morro Bay, just 10 miles north of SLO provides spectacular views of the setting sun. Take a tour of the Morro Bay Aquarium and dine at one of the many seafood places. Or drive south to Avila Bay or Pismo Beach for an afternoon on the beach. The multitude of activities listed in my previous blog on Oceano Airport, are all possible from SLO.
“We’re going to stall the and not recover” said my instructor Kurt.
“Okay” said I. Is this for real? I wondered but didn’t say.
“Instead we are going to stop it from tipping over by applying opposite rudder, are you ready?”
I must confess, I was never comfortable with learning stalls, is one ever? But I was willing to try. We were up in the air in a Citabria for my first tail wheel lesson over the gorgeous California coastline, a few miles southwest of SBP. Down below, I could see scores of people enjoying another beautiful day in the central coast: sun bathing, surfing, wind surfing, boating, ATV riding, horseback riding, running or simply sitting back with their favorite book.
Soon with throttle eased back, and nose pitched high we were poised for a stall. No stall warning in this aircraft… hope I can recognize when it stalls! Before long, I could feel the mushiness and impending stall. Stalls in a Citabria compared to a Cessna 172 are feather-like, gentle, and almost non-existent. “Right rudder” shouted my instructor. And we were off dancing with the rudder pedals. First right, then left, preventing the aircraft from tipping over. This was way too much fun! I could really start to like this stuff.