Mary and I decided that the fantastic weekend wx forecast called for a flight. Where you ask, well it really doesn't matter as long as the sun is shining and I'm flying. We managed to narrow it down to either a few day trips or two nights in Nags Head, NC. Nags Head it is, let the planning begin. I immediately started on my flight plan and wx review. Friday was looking iffy but I pushed our departure up from 10:30-11:00 to 8:30. The TAF (Terminal Area Forecast) was looking worse as the day went on for the first hour of the flight. We needed to clear Salisbury Maryland by 11:00 at the latest or it was going to be a reach. The other option was to sit on the ground and wait and launch late afternoon. The late launch was a no-go, not night current and with the freezing level so low I didn't want to stumble into wx and pick up ice.
We loaded up the dogs who were going crazy running laps in the house thinking they were going for a ride. Well, they were going for a ride alright but it was a short hop to jail....er....ah...the boarding place. Maggie and Rudder were admitted, processed, whatever and we were headed to the airport. Mary and I have the routine down pretty good as we uncover, pre-flight and pack the bags. I fired up 08R and sat at low idle to let my oil temp come up, it didn't take to long. I was cleared to taxi to runway one via Kilo. With the run up complete I was cleared for take off and following my back taxi I turned into the wind and launched to start our vacation 2 day get-away.
I climbed to 3,000 and tracked direct to the Salisbury VOR. Just south of Wilmington the soup was thick and I descended to 2,500 for a better view and to maintain VFR. Once past Dover the sun was starting to burn off the layer and visibility really opened up. I asked approach for 4,500 and kept the nose pointed at Salisbury MD. By the time we passed Georgetown (KGED) it was pea soup once again. My visibility was down to five miles but I had solid ground contact. Mary started to feel ill when it's hard to make out the horizon so she closed her eyes and took a nap. I was handed off to Patuxent, then Norfolk when I asked for 6,500 now that the we were South of SBY and the sky opened up just as clear and blue as could be. I was handed off to Oceania twice and we managed to see two F-18's launch from the base and circle climb out to pass 15 miles off our nose in a tight formation and heading to the Giant killer restricted area. Very cool sight to see!
Oceania handed me off to Washington center as I was about to cancel but the controller said he already handed me off so check in and update center. No problem thanks for the service. I contacted Washington center, updated the altimeter setting and advised I had the field in sight. I was 17.5 miles north and was looking down runway one seven. I listened to the AWOS once again to make sure the winds hadn't changed and announced my position and intentions for Dare County (KMQI). I had some altitude to loose since I had requested lower a few miles back, actually with the last Oceania controller and now was letting down for pattern altitude 1050' now out of 3500. I made a call for a four mile 45* for runway three five and joined the pattern, oh baby the winds were kicking. Base to final was a fun ride with winds gusting out of 340*. There is a long displaced threshold here due to thew huge tress on final approach. This landing took some throttle work with the winds and I held off on adding that last notch of flaps until I was late in the flair. Super soft landing and a long slow roll out to a left turn out and taxi back to the terminal. A quick review and fuel check shows each tank at the slot which is 20 per side which means we burned roughly 17 gallons in just under two hours. Not to bad of a fuel burn and we had a nice tail wind with ground speeds of 130+.
Mary went for the rental while I tied down and buttoned up 08R. I had the bags ready to go as she pulled up in a nice Explorer. I said wrong car we reserved a Ford Fusion for $50 a day, she said it was given out so we got the truck for the same price. We decided to get to the hotel and reserve a room then search for lunch. The plan was to head north and visit the First Flight museum. First flight is less then 15 minutes from the hotel so we made a first stop at a local watering hole, Awful Arthur's for lunch. Wow, supper crab dip that had some spice, my tongue, lips and even my ears were burning....but it was a good burn. After lunch we drove south a few blocks and turned in the park. Entrance fee was $4 per person and you could come back a second day. We drove around the monument then went into the museum. We had fun, took some pictures and looked at all the paintings on the walls.
With the early start time, flight time here and lunch we decided to call it an afternoon and head back for a nap, hey, it's vacation. Nap completed in a very cold room, our heater decided it was not going to blow any warm air. We called the desk and the maintenance man came right up, pulled the unit and replaced it. Wow, quick service and a really nice guy. The new heater was cranking out the warm air and quickly brought the room up to 70*. With the heat issue resolved we once again hit the road. The rental Ford Explorer is racking up the miles. We had no idea what we wanted but we headed north just in case, towards the all you can eat seafood or a steak house we had passed. We decided on JK's Steak and Seafood and it was a great choice!! Mary and I each had the fillet Mignon with a huge baked potato smothered in butter and sour cream. I passed on the asparagus but Mary took on the side dish and seemed to enjoy it. My fillet was cooked perfect, it was so tender you only needed your fork, unreal. It ranks at the top for taste with just a basic salt and pepper rub but the grill really sealed the deal. No dessert, we were way too full. We checked out more of the area and finally called it a night, heading back to the Surf Side.
DAY TWO, Saturday, March 6th
We each had the pleasure of sleeping in, no Rudder begging to go outside and no Maggie pacing the floor at 5:30 also wanting out. There were no cats to let us know their food bowl was empty and the phone didn't ring. I think we got up around nine then got ready to head out to the Grits & Grill for breakfast. Is there anything better then Grits and sweet tea? I think not. A great breakfast of omelets, hot tea and coffee. Today we decided on hitting whatever shops were open in Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Manteo. With full tummies from breakfast we lasted into the afternoon despite Mary's attempt to walk every pound off me. We ducked into Darrell's for a snack and something cold to drink. Mary ate the fried oysters and I had the shrimp. A great quick snack or early dinner appetizer washed down with a Corrona for the Bride and a sweet tea for me.
We hit a few more shops, checked on the local cats in the Roanoke Island Festival Park and scoped out some condos for sale and in general scouted the area for potential retirement living. We did manage to connect with two agents that provided some listings for us to look at. We really like the area, the people are so friendly and just about anywhere is a short hop to the ocean. Of course I would like to stay in Manteo closer to the airport. We finished up our long day and headed back to call it a night. We planned on a nap and late dinner but both had passed out.
DAY THREE, Sunday March 7th
A bright and early start for us today as we get ready to make the 1 hour hop over to KLHZ, Franklin County Airport to visit family in the nearby area. The room was squared away in short order and we were ready to go. I had rolled out of bed early in order to finish my pre-flight wx checks and plan for the trip home.Having this small Dell computer has been great, easy to carry, performs all my flight plan tasks and allows us computer time if we want to check in. We have no plan for breakfast and decided to wing it for now. I get us checked out and load the bags. We decided that it would be best to just head towards the airport and find a place to stop along the way for fuel and food, not necessarily at the same place. I topped off the explorer and cleaned off the windows, the salt spray left behind each morning was starting to look pretty gross and it was making the side mirrors harder to view. Our timing was looking good and we found a local hangout called TL's. Breakfast and service was very good and we were set to go.
The folks at Dare County airport are so nice. I had called for fuel at 8am while finishing up breakfast so that task would be scratched off the list. I unloaded the explorer, packed the plane and then completed my pre-flight. Winds favored runway 35 this morning so I opened up my Flight guide for a quick check of the taxiways and was ready to fire up 08Romeo. I plugged in our course on the Garmin 530 , tuned the Raleigh VOR as my back up nav and left the Garmin 496 with no plan but to just use for situational awareness. I like to cursor on airports for distance and heading as I fly always working a plan in my mind. 08R climbed out of Manteo and was ready to stretch her wings and I was too. The wx was so perfect for flying and after the Delaware winter wx this weekend was a welcome treat.
I was soon turning cross wind and departing the area to the west for our one hour hop. Mary asked me if it felt cooler then normal as I was getting ready to check in with approach. She asked again and I reached over to pull the heat on and it was already on. Hmmm....I do feel a slight draft that's not the norm for 08R, she's really airtight. I check Marys door and then mine, it's open. Ugghhh, my door is cracked open! I immediately level off and decided to turn back to Dare County. I did attempt to close the door once and it's a no go so my focus is fly the plane, get back on the ground. I turn back for the airport, announce intentions and decide runway five is perfect. I come over the water and cross the fence for a nice landing and roll out clear of the runway. Ok, door shut and checked we taxi back for a second attempt at this flight.
I announce our departure and start to roll. A check of the airspeed alive and a quick check on gauges green and I'm just about ready for wheels up. As I'm looking down the runway I catch a glimpse of two dogs crossing the runway as I am just ready to rotate. I focus on getting in the air and Mary said they both stopped in their tracks, thankfully no problems for either of us. Call me crazy but that's strike two in my three strike rule to flying for the day. The remainder of the trip is uneventful as we smoothly fly along listening to the xm radio country classics and taking in the view. As we approach Franklin County I copy the wx and listen for traffic on CTAF which I soon realize is shared with a few other airports. I announce my position and intentions about ten east and continue in noting the aircraft in the pattern on this clear sunny day. From ten miles out it was like watching bee's fly around the nest. I entered on a base leg which worked out great for spacing as I was number two behind a Cessna. Mary and I secured the plane, I had the tanks topped off and my Cousin Rob was there to pick us up, great timing.
Rob asked about flying to Ashville for some fantastic fly fishing, I'm game if we can fly there! It was fun to catch up with family and to spend some time with my Mom's sister. Always such fond memories growing up and spending time together in Wilkes-Barre, PA. It's funny to look back and now see where we all ended up. Annette and Rob are grandparents, my aunt a great grand mom or as she is called Gmom and now with great grand children that call her GG. North Carolina seems so far from the little area of Plains township but life has treated them well and they are very blessed to have a nice home a great family.
Since I am not night current we needed to get in the air in order to be home before turning into pumpkins or is that mice? (Beech Sundowner history joke there) We say our goodbyes, which is always hard, and make our way back to the airport. 08Romeo awaits our return like a faithful pup, knowing it's once again her turn for attention. A fuel sump and walk-around confirms all is in order so we load and a make for Wilmington. We manage to just beat the jump plane out loaded with meat missles and swap info on my departure route so everyone knows what everyone else is doing. I soon pick up flight following with Raleigh approach and advise my altitude and climbing for 7,500. We make our way north east on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay opting to fly over patuxent and restricted area R4007 that has a 5000 foot ceiling. The view is gorgeous as we look east and see the mouth of the bay, Newport News and even the last island off the penninsula. We stayed with center most of the way and was handed off to Philly approach just north of Dover Delaware. I advised that I had current ATIS info and would like to cancel following at this time. I switched over to Wilington and advised 15 south with info inbound for full stop. The TFR had long passed and we were headed in. I was instructed to make a left base 27 entry, I acknowledged. As I turned base I was asked to keep my speed up to be number one to land followed by getting clearence. Great, or so I thought. The next call from the tower was proceed direct to the numbers. Never heard that one before and it certainly wasn't that busy to squeeze us in. The reason we practice I guess as I held off on flaps and kept 08R at best speed. As soon as I had the runway made I pulled power dumped flaps when I could and as I flaired lost sight on the runway with the wicked sun glare. I held it off but manged to plant it pretty good with a short skip that felt worse then it looked I'm sure. Once rolling I retracted flaps made for the first trun off "without delay" and cleared the runway. We were home!
GPS TRACK FRIDAY - SUNDAY
Monday I'm taking a day off to get 08Romeo's oil changed and to give her a much needed wash and wax. 6.5 hours flying this weekend and a fun time, we can hardly wait until Spring!