Runway USA

A pilot's guide to destination cities in Flight Simulator
by Charles Gulick

Track of the Cavemen


Here we begin the longest contiguous series of flights you'll encounter in Runway USA, because I felt Texas should be honored with the longest “something,” and also because I thought you should get some feeling of what an actual point-to-point tour in an airplane might be like. As in real life, there are stretches in this flight when you see virtually nothing and virtually nothing happens. But I promise you, on the last leg, you'll enjoy one of the most beautiful waterscapes and landscapes the Scenery Disks have to offer.


This is Waterloo, but one Napoleon never saw. Waterloo is what Austin, Texas, was called when it was founded in 1838. O. Henry called it “City of the Violet Crown,” with its high towers of mercury-vapor lights flooding the downtown area. It became the capital of the Republic of Texas in 1839 and was renamed for Stephen Austin, a leader in the fight for independence from Mexico. He was jailed in Mexico City in the 1830s, where he went to argue for a colony of 300 families his father had established in Texas. The Mexican Republic opposed such colonization, and all the encroachments of the U.S. on its land, which then included most of what is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, and more than half of Colorado. The argument led to settler rebellions, the Mexican capture of the Alamo, and eventually the war in 1846.

In more recent and pleasanter times, Austin was the home of storyteller O. Henry (1862–1910), master of the “twist” ending. His real name was William Sydney Porter, his own private twist being that he was sent to prison for embezzlement, and that's where he wrote his first published story. Before that he was editor of a humor magazine, The Rolling Stone (yes, there was one way back then).

Austin is a city with high-tech industries and the richest of public universities, the University of Texas. Look at the city on radar and eyeball the line of Interstate 35. The campus is about as far due west from the highway as you are due east from it. The University of Texas has an endowment of over $1 billion and also holds deeds to millions of acres of oil fields.

Our takeoff to the northwest will point us in the general direction of the Colorado River. Off your left wingtip, in the real world, you could spot the giant Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & School of Public Affairs. Exactly big enough to be pure Texan.

Let's go when you're ready.

When your altimeter indicates 1500 feet, turn left toward the water. You'll probably be heading between 290 and 295 degrees.

Level off at 2800 feet. (Above 3000 feet, but not below, we'd need to fly regulation altitudes, which means even numbers plus 500 feet if you're heading west, odd numbers plus 500 if flying east.)

LBJ's famous ranch is well to the southwest. We won't be flying over it on our present route, but at least you now have some idea of where it is.

While the Colorado zigzags along, keep pointing toward the middle of it. Our reward will be to overfly a neat little body of water named Lake Buchanan.

All along this stretch of the Colorado—which begins northwest of Boulder and flows nearly 1500 miles to empty into the Gulf of California—are little towns with such names as Marshall Ford, Lakeway, Jonestown, Spicewood, Lago Vista, Smithwick, and Marble Falls.

Check radar once in a while, until you pick out Lake Buchanan distinctly. Then point your nose toward the left edge of it.

As you come closer you'll overfly Longhorn Cavern State Park. Genuine cavemen crouched inside the caverns down there once. The river flowing by the park is Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, with the towns of Kingsland and Sunrise Beach Village on its shores. At the southern tip of Lake Buchanan is Buchanan Dam.

Fly out over the center of the lake, then turn right between its banks. You'll fly by the towns of Bluffton and Tow, both west of your course.

As you reach the northern limits of the lake, tune your NAV to Lampasas VOR, 112.5, and center your OBI to get a heading. We'll land at Lampasas on Runway 34, punctuating the first and shortest leg of our journey.

(Just keep looking. The airport will show up.)

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