Phoenix, Arizona 2000 Cactus Match
In March of 2000 I decided to fly myself to the annual Cactus Classic match at the Ben Avery Range north of Phoenix, Arizona. I’d flight planned my route to take me up through the Bitterroot Valley of southwestern Montana and cross into Idaho north of Salmon, Idaho. Idaho has numerous high mountains and valleys running in a southeastern direction. From Salmon I cut over to Challis and then on south to Arco. From there I flew across the open Arco desert country into northern Nevada, stopping at Wells, Nevada for gas. The operator there told me I was the first plane in there in 10 days because of poor weather. From Wells I flew on south paralleling the Utah border.
So far I was having an excellent trip with unlimited visibility. I wanted to make my next fuel stop at Bullhead, Arizona across the Colorado River from the Nevada gambling town of Laughlin. To do so I needed to pass through the Desert MOA controlled by Nellis AFB outside of Las Vegas. I contacted Nellis Control prior to entry, as suggested on the WAC chart. I was given a discrete transponder code by Nellis and maintained radio contact. I was told the MOA was Hot and would be advised of traffic. A Cessna 210 entered the MOA about the same time as I did and I heard him contact Nellis shortly afterward that he was having propellor governor problems. He asked for a direct routing to North Las Vegas airport and was given a fighter escort to Las Vegas. Once, the controller advised me that I had fighters climbing at my 12:00 at 11,000′. I was at 9500′ but didn’t see them because I was just passing under a broken cloud layer. I was soon out of the MOA and over the Lake Mead.
With a quick turn-around at Bullhead, Arizona I was in the air again for Deer Valley, Arizona. I followed the Colorado River south and stayed with it as it made a slow turn to the east. Staying on that heading I flew on into the Phoenix area. I landed at Deer Valley just before sunset.
I shot well at the match, a 100 and 200 yard event in Light varmint and Heavy varmint. I placed 6th in the Heavy Varmint and was 13th in the 2-gun out of 260 top shooters.
The weather on Saturday, the first day of the 2-day match, was excellent with light winds and temperatures in the 80 degree range. But overnight the clouds and winds moved in. It rained all day Sunday and didn’t quit until late Tuesday. Phoenix hadn’t had rain since the prior September but that first week of March the area received nearly 3″ of rain.
That evening after the match I flew on to Bullhead, Arizona. I had the plane fueled and took the boat ride across the Colorado River to Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort and spent the night. The next morning I left before daylight and followed the dim outline of the Colorado River valley to the north. About the time I again entered the Desert MOA east of Las Vegas the sun started to come up. I had a great flight north through Nevada, stopping at Jackpot for fuel. The weather was excellent and I was soon into the mountains of Idaho and on into Montana and then home.