Fall Fell Early in 2007

September 10th: TNTripSept07/TN3.jpg A quiet morning departure from X14 IFR. It really was not necessary but for a longer trip with just Mario, I decided it would be best. The day was fairly clear; other than the normal Florida morning scuzz. Lots of planes were in the air.

This is a normal TN trip but I really do not like TNTripSept07/TN5.jpgto go the same route all the time so a slight devision to the west for the fuel stop at Auburn. We made great time with a 3-5 knot tailwind the whole way, and we were greeted by a bunch of college boys upon arrival at Auburn. They were prompt and efficient at fueling and tending to Wild Mama. I remember the days of college and left them with some of the home made "kitchen sink" cookies. They seemed pleased.

Your Pilot & Co-Pilot
Your Pilot & Co-Pilot

As we neared TN we already saw some of the hints of the fall to come. The lush greens which usually cover TNTripSept07/TN6.jpgthe grounds were giving way to lighter hues; and the sky lost its blue and TNTripSept07/TN4.jpgbecame overcast. This area, like many others, is suffering from a drought but it looks like we may get some rain - at the very least a good misting. Our arrival in TN was uneventful. We were happy to be there. Jimmy - Mr. Reliable - was there and was greeted with his standard batch of homemade cookies. We love to see Jimmy, and I especially like to see his smile when the cookies arrive. I hope he gets to eat some as they are often snarfed before he gets the chance. We have lots of work to do, so off to the cabin to begin.

September 11th: TNTripSept07/TN9.jpg For the first time in months it has rained in Spencer, TN . . . and a real soaking rain it TNTripSept07/TN8.jpgwas. We had lots of outside stuff to do which, fortunately, we got mostly done before the rains hit; but we are still left with a few errands. Of course, we had to stop at Muddy Pond. 

I was a good day for the birds, TNTripSept07/TN7.jpgand in the spirit of Mario's pet turkey, "Wee-Wee", we found some kin-folk as we meandered through the countryside. The Upper Cumberland plateau is such a beautiful area, and the towns - Sparta and Spencer - are quite quaint and picturesque. After our errands, we spent the remainder of the day doing inside repairs. The cabin is doing very well.  
www.vrbo.com/104177 The rental activity is brisk and our guests have been good; but like any house, there are always little projects: loose handles, change the look of the rooms, add accents, TNTripSept07/TN10.jpgchange light bulbs and the like. We actually got finished enough in time to kick back, relax and enjoy the house for a bit. . . and by days' end, the sun came out, just in time to set.

Sunset over Spencer, TN

September 12: TNTripSept07/TN12.jpg What a difference a day makes! Seems to be the theme of all travels. The morning brought a light fog in the valley below the house but an otherwise glorious morning. The perfect day to fly! The rains had washed away the haze that a been persistent over the area and the brilliant blue sky remained cloudless.

I had promised Ruby a flight over the area so she could get a birds' eye view of some property she was selling. Today was a great day - light winds and clear. It was funny as another individual was orbiting around the same farm:  must be a hot property!

We departed the area shortly before 11 a.m. enroute to visit the family in Maryland. As we had run this route on many occasions, I decided it was time to look TNTripSept07/TN13.jpgelsewhere for  a view so we diverted through Ohio to get to Maryland. We had not headed out to the north from Sparta before so the whole route was new to me. The rolling foothills to the north were speckled with the colors of an impending fall.  Most of this area is largely uninhabited: several houses dot the hillsides and peek through the trees.TNTripSept07/TN15.jpg The mountain ledges spread out like the paws of a lion laying sentry on his perch over looking the valley below.  There are many streams and rivers meandering through the hills with a lone railway defiantly cut through the hills allowing a long freight train to snake its way through. TNTripSept07/TN16.jpgThe lack of rain has given some of the rivers the appearange of being outlined like a child would do when coloring with crayons.

As we moved deeper into the central part of Kentucky, the subtle hue and color changes began to blanket the areaTNTripSept07/TN18.jpg. We pressed on toward my first glimps of Ohio as a pilot. I am working on making a landing in every state in the Lower 48; Ohio is on the list yet but will be checked off in a few minutes. I turned down the volume of the radio and listeded to the MP3 player and began thinking about all sorts of crazy things. I remember dreaming of flying as a kid - not in an airplane but just by flapping my arms. The scenes just above the treetops took me back to those arm-flapping moments. I began to chuckle, thinking that maybe sometimes we are given hints of things to come. I had never anticipated that my flight would be in an Cessna but the feeling must be the same. 

We finally cross the Ohio River from Kentucky to Ohio and the scenery changes from a wooded wonderland to the industrial north, especially along the river. We are minutes from landing. We approach KGAS and the scenery is really pretty: a neat little airport tucked in the "Y" of the Rivers. Three bridges criss-cross the rivers; there are small ridges on either side. I snap a few pictures and continue to turn my base leg.

View on downwind of KGAS

We land and meet Butch, a nice older gentlemen manning the counter. I need a Washington Sectional as I had not had the time to collect one before departure and I know all the ADIZ has just changed. I certainly do not want to venture in a strange area without a paper chart even though I have everything electronically in TNTripSept07/TN21.jpgthe cockpit. Now I have landed in Ohio, but Butch has no sectional so we head to KPKB in West Virginia to collect the needed chart, then press on to get to MD before the FBO closes. We climbed to 5,500' over the plush green carpet of rolling hills beneath us. There are multiple little bridges criss-crossing the rivers giving the appearance that the bridges are holding the river within its banks. We pass more TNTripSept07/TN24.jpgpicturesque towns and on to Western Maryland where the colors of fall give way to trees which have already passed their fall prime. We are almost here. 

TNTripSept07/TN22.jpgAll day, I have not gone at break-neck speed to get here. It has been another day about the journey: the destination being purely an excuse to fly. The journey is ending for the day. We land, get the car and call friends and family to let them know we are here. I manage to catch Janet and family before dinner and we head to one of my favorite spots: Silver Spring Inn, for some Sour Beef and Dumplings! Here, I got a treat within a treat:  Janet and I have been best friends since TNTripSept07/TN26.jpghigh school, along with Gail. The three of us have not all been together in more than 20 year. Just as we finished dinner, Gail called and came by so the three amigos got together again. How fun! A great end to a wonderful journey for the day. More adventures await us tomorrow.

September 13th:  Another glorious day to fly. TNTripSept07/tn28.jpg. . and, if you think of it, barring a hurricane orTNTripSept07/TN29.jpg the like, when isn't is a glorious day to fly? The project for today was a trip to Delaware: another state on the "have not landed there yet" list. Done. An old friend whom I have not seen in over 20 years tracked me down. I promised to visit next time I was anywhere near the area and today was the day.  

Now that the ADIZ is TNTripSept07/TN33.jpgnot longer Mickey Mouse shaped, you can get by the area in simple VFR form without the necessity of all the special requirements andTNTripSept07/TN31.jpg flight plan. A quick little meander around the restricted areas and a southeasterly departure is now quite pleasant. Sussex Co. (KGED) was the targeted airport as it has a small restaurant called Flight Line right there on the field. We met my friend, Jane there and chatted up a storm. It was so good to see her after so much time. We talked about all the crazy things sheTNTripSept07/TN30.jpg did (you know I was always an angel and never did such things as try to soap the Henlopen Hotel fountain in the dark of the night or raceTNTripSept07/TN32.jpg my motorcycle through the streets of Rehoboth). 

After a good crab cake lunch, we wandered out to see some airplanes. Seems they are trying to do some restoration and I heard someone say "museum". They certainly had lots of exhibits outside and it would be nice to have something on the field as it certainly is roomy enough.  

I used to work for JaneTNTripSept07/TN35.jpg at the police department in Rehoboth Beach, DE. It was just up theTNTripSept07/TN34.jpg road from the larger beach resort cousin, Ocean City, MD. Jane told me the place has changed; I guess like any other. But since I was so close and could see the skyline of Ocean City from KGED, it was a definite do.

We departed to the southeast and headed out over Assateague Island, home of the famous pony swim. We avoided the Ocean City airprt as there were many jumpers coming in and I was not familiar with their landing procedures,TNTripSept07/TN36.jpg so it was best avoided. We doubled back and flew up the coast line. Wow! Not only has OC bloomed; but Rehoboth - once a sleepy family beach community- has exploded. I could not believe the growth. It was amazing.TNTripSept07/TN37.jpg

Our flight back home was a bit windier - we got a good push from the sea breeze. We cut up a bit farther north just to see more stuff and give a bit more room to the ADIZ. Still a glorious day, but starting to get a few dedorative fluffy clouds overhead; just enought to keep the day a cool 78 degrees.

We arrive back in Westminster in time to do some more family visitation. The next couple of days are not to be the most stellar flying days as parts of the Humberto front will be bumping into the area.

With Wild Mama tied safely in her spot, we headed off. . . tomorrow will be another day.TNTripSept07/TN39.jpg

Quarry in northern Maryland

September 14th:  Although the sun was hiding most of the day, it was still quite pleasant today; but it was not a day to be flying. We came to Maryland to see family. Our visits today were cheery and full of old stories and lots of laughter followed by lots of food. My other favorite place in Maryland is the G & M Restaurant where you will eat THE best crab cakes - I mean real jumbo lump crab cakes. Then after waddling out, we headed off to the Amish Village Market for fresh baked goods. Since I do not eat chocolate anymore, I have been more drawn to pumpkin: cakes, cookies, rolls, etc. I also found fresh baked cheese bread. My friend, Tom, coined the phrase about the cheese bread that every bite gets duct taped directly to the hips. Very true for me.

We have lost our local hotel room with the high speed internet connection as the Carroll County Wine Festival runs this weekend,. Although departure is emmanent, I think a stop at the festival is a must before hand, so sights and sounds of Maryland tomorrow.

September 15th:  Mario was ready to go home today, as he usually is after being out for a few days, but the weather was not the best for an early morning departure. Maryland experienced a nice rain storm last night, leaving behind high humidity and low winds and fog for the morning hours.TNTripSept07/MD1.jpg My sister, Michelle, called to ask  us to go to the Carroll County Wine Festival with her until the noon-ish hour. Sounds good. Although I grew up in this area, I never thought of Maryland as being wine country but over the last several years I have discovered quite a few wineries which produce the more fruity and sweet wines which are quite tasty.
As I was flying out in a few hours, the wine tasting part of the experience was out. Even if I were not flying, I could not drink and drive, anyway. But Mario and Michelle were more than eager to make the samples and offer their opinion of which wines I should buy for the house.
After my companions had their fill and the skies cleared off, we packed . . . and packed . . . and packed Wild Mama until she could hold no more.  Fortunately, we were only 2 flying so we had the extra room and weight. All nooks and crannies were packed full of goodies - wine, fresh baked goods from the Amish country, and odds, ends and treasures picked up along the way.  The afternoon had turned quite windy and a local who flew for the Civil Air Patrol advised against out departure. I checked the winds: 18 kts.gusting to 25 kts; and once I made the turn southward past the ADIZ, a tailwind. I politely thanked him for his concern, turned tail to the wind and set sail.  It  was a bit of a ride over the mountains, the ground speed wildly fluxuating from 120 kts. to 180 kts. as Wild Mama got pushed from up-draft to down-draft and back again. All and all, we still managed an average of 150+ kts. so I was pleased.  While enroute to Barnwell, and somewhere just south of Greenville VOR, I crossed my 800th hour as a pilot.  I was very content thinking how far I had come in less than 2-1/2 years.
As we came in to Barnwell, SC, I started checking the long range weather in Florida to see how the standard afternoon thunderstorms had blown up. I paused to admire Lake Barnwell with its raged edges and its waters brimming with surprisingly large yachts. The plan was to make the "go/no-go" decision once in Barnwell as there was a hotel there and it was the half-way point in the trip. It was still relatively early and I felt great; the weather was not bad and Wild Mama was in her flying mood. Let's go!  I filed IFR because I knew I would have some storms to pick through and it is really difficult to wait for the lightening flashes to see where you do NOT  want to go.  It was much better to use the MX20 to avoid the bad cells and fly through the light greens and clouds.
There was no doubt where the Florida line was located: directly beneath the line of storms. The cloud formations were beautiful . . . from the outside. I slipped in between 2 rather large cells, bumped around for a few minutes and exited the otherside without even a minor bug wash. We dropped from 6,000' to 5,000' as we turned on the final legs of our course. From there we caught the sunset peeking through the clouds above us.TNTripSept07/MD6.jpg While the storms in the summer can be quite nasty, they really do produce some spectacular scenery.

With darkness now upon us, I could see numerous lightening flashes up ahead. Nothing was directly in the path but close enough that I did not want to continue on straight. "4-Whisky-Mike: TNTripSept07/MD7.jpgdeviate as necessary for build-ups." Ahhh, he read my mind. A slight sache to the left and I was clear. I strained to see the horizon to see if the clouds were before me, but I was approaching a naturally dark area. Suddenly, the lighteneing came from within: I hit a cloud and all I could see were the strobe flashes reflecting back at me. Not good. I shut off the strobes untilI I could emerge below the clouds and down to 3,000'. Now it is clear. I see the beacon from LaBelle nearly 25 miles out. "I have the airport in sight." Words we long to say.  With a "chirp, chirp", we are home safe and sound.