Monday, November 18, 2019

Newport News by Land

The winds and potential low overcast pushed me to a no go decision for Newport News and it redefined our method of transportation. It was now strictly a ground pound scenario. After many years of flying and reviewing weather information I have long given up the guilt of a cancelled flight, but I still watch how the forecast plays out. I'm a pilot, it's what we do. 
Mary and I decided to take new blue, our new GLC300, and leave old blue my ML320 at home. We headed out around 10am, pointed south along RT. 113, with a planned stop for breakfast at Janets General Store Cafe' located in Onancock, Virginia.

Onancock was founded in 1680 as Port Scarborough before having its name changed to a word derived from“auwannaku', a Native word meaning “foggy place.

The Cafe' is a friendly place with excellent food and service.  Mary had her favorite,orange french toast with a honey orange marmalade syrup, and I had an omelet with bacon, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese. Everything was hot and tasty, it's worth the stop when driving down the peninsula. We plan to visit again soon by flying into Accomack (KMVF) and using a courtesy car for the short ride north(7.5 miles)to the Cafe'. 
The weather was overcast all day today, from Ocean City to the south side of the Bay Bridge Tunnel, there was no relief. The winds moved the SUV from side to side and the Bay Bridge had a speed and vehicle restrictions.

Mary and I checked into our hotel and took some time to relax. We were scheduled to meet up with Susan for dinner at 4:30pm.  Susan picked out a  a new us steakhouse, Schlesingers.  
This steakhouse was upscale, and if the steaks are as good as the restaurant presents we would be in for a treat.  I had an 8oz filet with a baked sweet potato while  Mary had the petite fillet, 6oz, with spinach. Susan had the 8oz filet with steamed broccoli. The steaks were cooked perfect and we all enjoyed our meal. Since we had our fill, it was decided we would all pass on dessert.
The Ferguson Center was just a short drive and we managed to find a very good parking spot close to the parking garage exit. The single parking garage structure is close to the main entrance but the winds really encouraged attendees to hustle along the pavers leading to the entrance.
Clint Black put on an excellent show. He's been at it for thirty years and his interactions with the crowd were just smooth and natural, a true entertainer. I was impressed, he could still bring it with his voice, guitar, and harmonica skills. During the show he did some Willie Nelson, seriously, a perfect imitation.  Some of the other songs he did were in tribute to Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard along with some back story on each.
The key to departing the parking garage is to back into your spot. This was learned after multiple shows and struggling to get a break in order to back out. Experience is always a a good teacher.  Traffic moved quickly and within fifteen minutes of leaving the garage we were pulling into the hotel.  Mary and I both passed out, it was along day.


It was nice to sleep in one more morning with no Ziva to wake me.  Our plan was to meet Susan for breakfast at 9:30. We all forgot it was Sunday morning and the crowds instantly reminded us. The wait at the next door Cracker Barrel was only twenty minutes, and the food was worth the wait. Yes, we took some biscuits home. 

The hardest part was now upon us, the goodbyes. I did hear the ladies planning a combined birthday get-away to Las Vegas next September, I'm not sure if I should  be worried or not.  At least I'll be around to bail them out if necessary. Maybe I'll plan a nice flying adventure. 

Mary and I each grabbed a Stewarts root beer for the ride home, along with some snacks.  It was another long three hour drive back to Ocean City. The waves along the Bay Bridge were still pounding, and at one point we watched sea spray blowing on to the bridge deck, it was an awesome sight.
Once home I updated the Ocean City weather only to confirm my original planning.  The sky was overcast 400 and visibility 1 1/2 miles. It was still very windy and raining, I'm happy we decided to drive. Mary and I are already looking forward to the next opportunity to catch a show at the Center and spend time with Susan. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

By Land or Air?

Clint Black

"Still Killin' Time" 30th Anniversary Tour

Mary and I have tickets to see Clint Black at the Ferguson Center in Newport News, VA. The 'plan' is to fly 3 Tango Charlie down to Newport News (KPHF), on Saturday, and spend two nights. The backup plan is to drive to the event, 158 miles, three hours each way. 
Lets take a look at the forecast for the route of travel. First Saturdays departure from OXB and arrival at PHF.  Followed by Mondays departure and arrival.
Departure KOXB
Arrival KPHF
Departure KPHF
Arrival KOXB
Upon arrival I do not have a guaranteed hangar spot, it's going to be first come first serve. I really don't want 3TC sitting in the storm that will be moving through the area. The other factor is having to unload baggage, get the plane covered and secured, in the rain. Now I know I won't melt but it's just a real PITA and Mary doesn't need to be in that crap. 
What really stands out in the above three pictures, besides the obvious heavy rain, is the spacing of the isobars. Isobars are the closely grouped white lines between the high and low. Closely spaced isobars mean strong winds, widely spaced isobars mean lighter wind. From a pressure analysis, you can get a general idea of wind speed from contour or isobar spacing.
Unfortunately this flight looks like a no-go. I am instrument current but not proficient enough to tangle with the winds, low overcast, and heavy rains. I was really looking forward to some gentlemens IFR, up and down through a layer, maybe just some light rain, and providing good flight video along with some additional footage around Newport News. There will always be a next time.  For now, we get to travel in our new Benz GLC 300, it's the first road test. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day

Please, take time today to remember those men and women who serve in all branches of The United States armed forces. Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to provide the very freedoms we all enjoy, everyday. Mary and I would like to pass along a heart felt Thank You to all of our Veterans and 
their families for your service and sacrifice. 

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Breakfast Hop with my Bride

Mary and I decided we would head out for breakfast today. The plan was to make the forty-five mile hop for good eats to Cambridge MD.

3 Tango Charlie was fueled, preheaters plugged in, and turned on with our Switchbox. We were ready to go.  The temps today were 34* but the sun was shining and there were no winds.

I launched off three-two, climbing out to three thousand feet and pointed west.  As we crossed over Salisbury, KSBY, Mary and I really enjoyed the view. Temps at altitude hovered around twenty-five degrees and we both felt a bit of chill blowing in the cabin.  The rear overhead vent were open, it was very noticeable.

I made a straight in for runway three-four and greased one on. I'm really getting the feel for holding the nose of until the speed bleeds off.
We sat and had lunch since we just missed the breakfast cutoff at 11am. BLT's for the both of us with fries and a sweet tea for me really hit the spot.  Obviously we had missed the morning rush so we enjoyed the quiet time.

The hot start monster reared its ugly head and after multiple attempts the fan finally turned.  Frustrated doesn't even begin to cover the hot starts. I set up the GPS, reversing this morning's flight, and taxied out.   Distracted  by my frustration I actually announced holding short for traffic on final three-four (for runway one-six) and Ocean City (for Cambridge).  Holy smokes! I've lost my marbles. I corrected my call as I rolled for take off with Commander 3 Tango Charlie "actually" departing one-six Cambridge. The light sport behind me said " yeah, like I haven't done that before."  I  laughed as I wished him a good flight.

It was a bumpy flight home followed with another greaser landing into OXB.  Mary and I had fun time.  We are looking forward to our flight to Newport News next weekend to attend the Clint Black concert.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Sanibel Anniversary Get-Away

November 7th marks fifteen years with my bride.  Mary definitely deserves a medal for putting up with me for so long. Together we decided on a quick get-away to a warm beach, Sanibel Island Florida was the perfect destination.

Day 1 - 11.3.19


We had airline tickets to use or lose so we paid the ticket change penalty, $200 per ticket, and moved on.  Don’t even get me started on that thieving scam. 

We flew out of Salisbury (KSBY) with a connection in Charolette (KCLT). Once the Piedmont Embraer ERJ-145 regional jet arrived we had to change to gate C. It’s not a bad walk and we had over an hour to get there. The last flight, on an Airbus 321, took off on time and arrived descending through IMC. We broke out in plenty of time to line up and get on the ground without descending to minimums.
Welcome to Fort Myers

Mary and I quickly set out to retrieve our luggage and head to the rental car agency. Our Avis Mitsubishi SUV was ready to go, if only I could figure out how to open the rear hatch. Once the puzzle was solved the bags were stored and we were off for Sanibel.
What would we do without GPS maps on our cell phones?  With easy buttonology we locked in our destination, the Sundial Beach Resort and Spa. Check in was quick and friendly with an added few gifts tossed in. I made sure our SUV was ok out front while Mary and I ordered some dinner to go from the bar. I had the rack of ribs and Mary had shrimp over pappardelle in a garlic wine sauce.  We devoured dinner since the only thing we had was pancakes at home for breakfast followed with the complimentary pretzels and airline cookies for lunch.

Day 2 

Beach Time

The weather looked iffy at best, but we were heading to the beach anyway.  We were determined to relax to the sound of waves and the feel of sand in our toes.  
Mary immediately set off on a shell scavenger hunt while I was happy to broil on that comfy beach lounge. We sipped ice tea and munched on some snacks while watching people hunt for shells. 
I enjoyed the pelicans making passes in formation just skimming along the wave tops and the birds about thirty feet over the water surveying for food. 
It was wild watching their heads pointing down, scanning for food, then plunging into the water. I did hear and see one GA aircraft heading north along the Fort Myers Beach along with one commercial flight (Southwest) over the Gulf.

Time to Explore

Once we had our fill of sand and sun we decided to explore the island. There are a few places of interest we wanted to see so before heading back to the room we went for a drive. It’s not that difficult on an island, follow the main road loop and learn the cross roads as we go. I pointed the SUV to the J.H. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge.  There were options, tram car type tour, self tour by car and some hiking trails.  We selected the self tour by car.  A four mile trail with plenty of places to pull off and take pictures. Now I wish we packed the real camera, instead we opted for our cell phones which couldn’t handle the zoom features we needed.
 We could not believe how thick the mangrove trees were as the provided a network of roots and branches just above the water. It was a safe haven for critters and birds, but not accommodating to man. The waterways were beautiful, and dotted with multiple birds. 
A few we spotted along our trail were the Great Egret, this bird is tall, elegant and white, with a yellow beak and black legs. The Snowy Egret. Smaller than the great egret, the snowy egret also has a white body and black legs. Reddish Egret. White Ibis. Great Blue Heron. Little Blue Heron. Roseate Spoonbill. The roseate spoonbill, a cousin to the Greater Flamingo, is known for its Rosy Pink coloring. 
Picture provided by Haydens Animal Facts
We also saw the great white pelicans. Sanibel Island is a long way from the Nile, but great white pelicans are here, and  a good 4,000 miles from its home range, it’s the first location the Old World species has been recorded in North America. 
photo by Jaydot
As we continued our drive we came across a large green iguana. Apparently they are a problem here in Sanibel. The green iguana is not native to the area and has posed a problem to the ecosystem, destroying native vegetation.
The four mile trail provided beautiful views of many birds. It was fun and yet very peaceful to experience. As we drove out of the refuge I pointed our rental for the condo. Along the way we spotted a DQ.  I can not pass a Dairy Queen when it’s hot out and ice cream is so close. I had a pineapple sundae with nuts and Mary enjoyed a Carmel sundae.  With tummies full and lunch crossed of the to do list we headed to the Resort. We showered and dressed for dinner, watching some local news until it was time to go.

The Dinner Adventure

We followed a recommendation and headed out to the Bubble Room, yes the bubble room. The Bubble Room is located on Captiva Island, just north west of Sanibel. 
The drive reminded us of leaving Nags Head and heading north for Corolla or Duck in the Carolinas.
Our initial impression when we parked was what the heck is this place. It was a quirky collection of Hollywood and Christmas rolled into one place. The staff was very nice and we were quickly seated. 
Our table was bordered by in the wall fish tanks, Hollywood memorabilia and a life size deep sea diver with 20,000 leagues under the sea submarine hanging just overhead. I kid you not, it was all there. 
Now if you can imagine all that, add in Christmas decorations, to include bubble candle lights, and shadow box tables with a mix of Christmas and Hollywood collectibles.  This place caused a sensory overload to ones vision. I called it the Chuck E. Cheese for adults. I don't like Chuck E. Cheese.

Thankfully the meal was excellent. My filet mignon was perfectly cooked and melt in your mouth. Mary's prime rib looked like a Flintstone size cut. It too was cooked to perfection and she said the horsey sauce dip was most tasty. 
The place is noted for its desserts so of course we had to indulge.  I kept it simple with key lime pie, Mary had a chocolate cake with cream layers and strawberry's. We each took most of our dessert home for tomorrows breakfast.

Day 3

More Beach Time

This morning started off a bit slower than yesterday’s pace to hit the sand and surf.

Mary and I passed on the big breakfast and instead made a quick stop for eats at the on site convince shop. Wait, what?  Well we needed more SPF 50 and when we walked in you could smell bagels and bacon. I was giving the grill a look see while Mary was trying on some hats, I have my priorities.

I ordered an everything bagel with bacon, egg, and cheese. My bride had a bowl of watermelon, and did not purchase a hat. Yes, we did remember the SPF 50 sun block. 

We left the store and walked to the beach, making a stop for towels and requesting an umbrella from the young man on duty. All the extras are part of the resort package so why not use them. 
With our piece of heaven selected we sat back and enjoyed the waves crashing, cool gulf breeze, and watched the birds and pelicans diving for fish snacks.

We did notice everyone coughing and sneezing, I notice all the weird stuff.  Mary and I both had a persistent cough and my bride must have used a box of tissues blowing her nose.  What we didn’t know at the time was that the Red Tide can cause respiratory irritation (coughing, sneezing, tearing and an itchy throat) when the Florida red tide organism, Karenia Brevis, is present and winds blow onshore. Offshore winds usually keep respiratory effects experienced by those on shore to a minimum.

We lasted almost three hours on the beach and then headed for our room.  Mary needed cool cleaner air to breath and we both needed showers. While relaxing in our room I watched a news segment on red tide. If you have asthma you should avoid the beach when the winds are blowing onshore, the highest red tide time.  At least my bride does carry her inhaler and now we are informed.
Once the symptoms subsided we headed out for more exploration. We checked out multiple shops, from sea shells to diamonds, we covered it all. 

When it was getting close to dinner time we bounced back and forth between a burger place or the restaurant at the resort.  The resort won out and we each ordered the shrimp over pappardelle noodles. We each enjoyed our meal, savoring a hint of wine with garlic, fresh herbs, and tomatoes.  Mary had a glass of pino and I had an ocean city favorite, orange crush.  We both slept very well.

Day 4

Our Last Full Day

We eventually worked our way towards breakfast at the Over Easy Cafe.  The decision was to pass on a last beach day, instead keeping clear of the red tide toxin and dealing with the side effects.

With full tummys we pointed the rental SUV south for Marco Island.  The first leg took about an hour and a half and traffic wasn’t to bad.  As we crossed the bridge on Collier Ave we were amazed how much of a big city feel Marco island had.  
We drove all over town but really didn’t find a place we liked, a place that felt good to us. Oh there were plenty of condos and beautiful buildings but nothing left us impressed for a nice winter get-away in a quiet setting. 
Our next stop was Naples, just a short hop north.  What we found was plenty of traffic and a big city feel.  Again, it just didn’t fit us.  Mary and I decided it was time to head back north.
Following our fuel stop we headed for Cypress Trail RV Resort. Mary and I had planned to meet up with one of my high school classmates, Debi, and her husband, Bob. Traffic was moving pretty quickly and we were passing through their resort security gate within the hour. We enjoyed catching up, reminiscing  and talking about our life directions. We also got an in depth tour of the resort, it’s a beautiful park.

After three and half hours of catching up we decided we best get moving and head back to Sanibel. Debi and Bob had just gotten into town late last night so I’m sure they had a list of things to do. After fourteen hours of driving I would imagine they also needed some serious sleep time too. 
We said our goodbyes, each of us vowing to catch up again soon. With hugs complete Mary and I headed back across the bridge to Sanibel, making a stop at Cheeseburger Cheeseburger for dinner. We each had a build your own cheeseburger with malt shakes and an order of onion rings. With our tummy’s filled, we only had to find our way back to the condo. I managed to retrace my route, in the dark, right back to my exact parking spot.

Day 5

The Return Home

This morning we decided to return once again to the Over Easy Cafe for breakfast. Why mess with a good thing, if it ain't broke don't fix it. OEC had fast friendly service and very good food, what’s not to like. Once we finished eating we headed to the airport to return our Avis rental vehicle.  There were no lines, we were checked out, handed over the keys and headed to the designated gate ahead of schedule.  
Once entering the terminal I did not see signage for ticketing. We each had our boarding passes but needed to check our bags. Mary and I do not do carry on, it slows the process. I also did not see the TSA screening, but thought maybe it was close to the gate. Again, no lines as we walked up to TSA for scanning, this was working out just fine.  I asked the agent where was check in, there was nobody outside and I did not see anything when we came in.  We had to do an about face and walk back to the entrance, this time making a right turn, just before the main doors, to the American Airlines counter.  Duh! I walked right past this when we came in.

Ok, our bags are checked and we're headed back to TSA for the body scan.  Lose the shoes and belt, empty everything in the trays and enter the transporter, I mean scanner. I went right through with a quick check of each ankle, yes they have plates and screws.  I noticed I had a big yellow block on my forehead, did I have something done that I don’t remember or was that mass my brain? The agent laughed and said you moved your head when it scanned, you're free to go.  I got my tray and got squared away with shoes, belt,and belongings. I looked for Mary, usually waiting for me just beyond the scanners, and there she was, getting the full pat down.  Well isn’t that a switch! We had a good laugh and continued on to our gate, to sit and wait.  

The flight to Philly was on an Embraer 190, it was smooth and quiet at thirty one thousand feet. Once landing at Philly we took a shuttle bus to our next gate in terminal F, to await our connecting flight home. We eventually boarded an Embraer 145 and taxied out for departure. One hop away from home. 
departing Philly
Another smooth flight at twelve thousand feet and it only took nineteen minutes wheels up to touchdown. I should mention it took twenty-seven minutes from leaving the gate to take off roll. 
We enjoyed our Anniversary get-away but are just as happy to be home and back with our Ziva girl.  It's a busy month with an upcoming Clint Black concert then a trip to Austin Texas. Somewhere in between I need to get 3 Tango Charlie flying.