Nevada, Iowa and the wild, wild Midwest
CONNOR WAS PERUSING THE OMAHA SECTIONAL.
He hadn’t spent much time on our flight from San Francisco to
Boston looking at paper maps, up until that point. For one thing, the
scenery throughout the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains was far
more interesting than any piece of paper. His eyes were glued to a
camera viewfinder far more often than a sectional map. What’s more,
the challenges of flying over and through the mountainous West were
absorbing enough that neither of us was doing any leisure reading
along the way.
In addition, we were testing out not one but two portable Garmin
GPS units on the trip—the smaller 496 and the notebook-sized
696—with weather and XM radio included. So as the techno-savvy
teenager in charge of all things computer-based, Connor spent most
of the time he wasn’t flying, taking pictures, or looking for potential
traffic or landing sites figuring out the data secrets of our two
But as we left the high country behind us and headed into the
lower, flatter prairie, all that began to change. Instead of dramatic
mountain vistas, the landscape stretched out in endless blocks of
green, yellow, and brown. The blocks varied in texture and shape, of
course, but the effect was akin to shooting out onto a calm, flat lake
after days of immersion in the rough and tumble drama of Class 4
If we’d started out in Wichita, Connor might have snapped
dozens of pictures of farmland along the way. But I’d spoiled him
by starting in California. So as we took off with our newly repaired
alternator from Sioux City, Iowa, and headed east in the evening
skies toward our next stop of Peoria, Illinois, the camera stayed in
the back seat.
“Where, exactly, are we, and where are
we going?” he asked, after a spell.
The route was plugged into the GPS
units, but even on a notepad-sized screen, it’s
impossible to get both detail and scope at the
same time. There just isn’t room. So I handed
Connor the sectionals, explained to him how
the VOR radio worked and how, by tuning
in to two different VOR stations, he could
triangulate our current position on the map.
Once he had that figured out, I gave him our
heading and said to look in that direction for
Peoria. Many folds of sectional paper later, he
had his answers.
But even after Connor had found Peoria,
he kept looking at the map. There’s actually
a lot of interesting stuff on a sectional, if you
take the time to look. After a few minutes, he
“Did you know there’s a town in Iowa
named Nevada?” he asked.
“Wow. That’s confusing,” I answered
with a giggle. “It’s like the Abbott and
Costello skit about ‘Who’s on First?’
Someone asks you where you’re from,
and you say…‘Iowa, Nevada.’ ‘Which one?
Nevada or Iowa?’ they answer. ‘Both,’ you
say. ‘Nevada, Iowa.’ And they look at you like