Monday, September 18, 2017

Seeking Shelter

Due to construction at the Ocean City Airport (red box) 08Romeo was banished to the ramp.  Talk about timing, this all takes place prior to the Beech Aero Club Fest, just in time to present my plane in a state of filth. Between construction dust and dirt, to the black streaks from the cover, the poor girl looks like she gets no love.

Unfortunately, I have bigger issues to contend with. Hurricane Jose' is working it's way up the coast and has taken a turn for the mid-Atlantic and north-east. Memories of hurricane Sandi in October 2012 and looking for shelter.

I made calls in advance and had scheduled a potential hide out in one of the corporate hangars at the Millville airport, thanks to Big Sky Aviation. I also had a potential spot in a hangar just across from my temporary tie down at Ocean City. Tom was going to be out of town on business with his gorgeous Bonanza. I acquired this insider knowledge from hanging out in the office chatting with a few of the pilots. Tom graciously offered his hangar if Jose' was going to hit. I asked about his plane and he said he would keep it at his other hangar closer to DC. Talk about timing.
I traded phone calls with Arnie, Toms friend, who also moved his Bo in the hangar for the duration of construction. It was all set if needed. Saturday's weather report was calling for 20mph winds and I didn't feel the need to bother moving the plane inside, I thought no big deal. Mary and I went over to the airport and I added tie down straps in addition to the ropes I already had securing 08Romeo.

Fast forward to this morning. The forecast has changed, Ocean city was reporting LIFR conditions along with the potential for 50mph winds on Tuesday. Crap! Millville was socked in, and ocean city was still the same. I had contacted my friend Jeff D from Woodbine knowing he had just sold his beautiful Mooney and may still have a hangar open, he did. I couldn't get in there either.
I decided to head over to the airport and look for the best tie down location I could find. Mary and I decided on the ramp adjacent to the self serve fuel. This spot is partially blocked by a hangar to the north and west, it was my best shot. Before moving 08Romeo I went up to the office and asked if there were any open hangars that they knew of. Nola (what a sweetheart) called Tom, who I already had talked to and he said he was still holding it for me, GREAT! With a quick call to Arnie he met me at the hangar and I tugged 08Romeo inside. 08Romeo is safe for two nights and I'll tug her back out on the ramp Wednesday morning around 10am.
While sitting in the office another man walked in, the plane he flies was in the shop so Nola asked if he had a hangar open. The pilot (Ed)said he would call his boss and see. I said I'm good, since Tom still had an opening but we got to talking planes. Ed's boss is looking to get home from Martin State, KMTN. I offered the Sundowner but three big guys might not make W&B. I thanked Ed and Nola then headed out to move 08Romeo.

What a bizarre morning. It's all about timing. My stomach finally stopped doing flip flops and I feel much better knowing 08Romeo is safe for the coming storm. Now the revised plans for Boston. Mary and I made calls to push our hotel reservation, car rental and pet boarding  until Thursday, when we'll try this flight plan again. Maybe its time for a mermaid lemonade or a captain and coke.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Flight Time and Family

I was up early, thanks to the zoo, and decided I would make some breakfast then check weather and NOTAM's for some potential flight time.

I made bacon, eggs and hash browns with a toasted english muffin, substituting for my typical rye toast. As I pulled up my chair to the desk I thought I could enjoy my breakfast, check weather, and update the path of tropical storm Jose. This storm forced the change of our Boston flight along with family rescheduling visit time due to a kitchen remodel.  My planned Saturday departure was scrubbed and I reconfigured for a Tuesday morning flight. With Jose looming and the weather forecast for KOXB looking crappy I figured we would instead hunker down, seek shelter for 08Romeo and regroup. All this weather does not make my breakfast enjoyable at all.


Assawoman Bay on the right
My bride emerges from our bedroom like sleeping beauty, it's now just past 10:00. My princess, would you care for some breakfast? I ask this with a touch of sarcasm. Grumble...good morning, no thank-you. Mary sits on the office couch, trying to wake up and inquires about today's plans. We initially wanted to grocery shop but I suggested some flight time, maybe to Cape May (KWWD) to enjoy strolling along the shops and to get some exercise and sun. My Bride mentions she would like to see Brennan, our great nephew, the plans are changed.
Just getting out from the dark clouds
Dover AFB and the next layer ahead
I'm back online to recheck weather and NOTAM's for Wilmington, KILG. Everything looks good, with a chance of showers mentioned in the local forecast for the beach. I pack up my electronics, Mary gets dressed and lets Ziva out one more time, we're ready to go.

The airport seems quiet except for the construction vehicles, pushing stone with a grader, dozer and a roller following behind. One of the machines has a defective back up beeper and it sounds like a transformer size bumble bee, it's loud and annoying. We turn our attention to 08Romeo and concentrate on the pre-flight. Mary and I both grumble about having to uncover and we each comment on the layer of dirt on the wings, it's gross. With the outside tasks completed we climb aboard, and we escape the large bumble bee!

Ah, quiet, very good. Inside checks completed and we are ready for start-up. 08Romeo quickly comes to life, she's ready to get away from the dirt and noise too. I didn't file today, instead I would pick up flight following with Dover. I launch off runway one-four and climb out to the north. There is a cloud layer ahead and some of it is dark and ugly. Mary suggests that it's ok if I want to turn around.
State Police helicopter around me again
I descend from three thousand to two and ride below the layer. The ride isn't to bad and we clear the uglies as we approach Dover.  The ride gets bumpy but tolerable as we continue north. Dover cuts us loose to squawk VFR and I switch over to the Wilmington tower for a quick listen before dialing in Philly approach. Once we get about fifteen miles out I'll switch back to the tower at ILG.
Wilmington is busy with traffic as I announce and work my way in as directed. I'm making a straight in, and will be reporting a three mile final as directed. There is a Bonanza shooting the GPS Runway 1 approach and he will pass behind me, I will be following an Archer that is left downwind for runway one turning left base in front of me.  I'm number two to land and cleared as I watch the Archer over the numbers, I'm now just inside three miles. I land and roll out clearing the runway with a right turn on taxiway Kilo, then switching to ground. As I taxi across runway 9-27 on taxiway Bravo, I watch the Bonanza roll out on runway one, good job tower making things flow. I taxi back to the other end of the field to Flyadvanced and shut down in front of their hangar.
Since this would be a short visit we secured the courtesy car, a Ford explorer, and headed out the gate. We are immediately reminded why we don't miss Wilmington, TRAFFIC.  With all the ongoing construction we sat in lines, slowly making our way to Mary's brothers place. I even took the back roads, they were backed up too with lane restrictions.
Mary got to hold Brennan and we were happy to visit with Mark and Lynn. Mark is looking much better after his surgery and with the ongoing PT I think he is walking better too. We hung out for a couple of hours and then decided we should get the courtesy car back to the FBO. Travel by general aviation makes this an easy trip.
Mary and I made a quick stop at Johnnies Dog House, a favorite of ours, for a fast tasty lunch. I also had to stop for fuel since the last person to drive the courtesy car left it almost empty. The computer said we had 70 miles to empty when we left the airport. Why are some people so cheap? I made a quick stop and put $20 in, just under half tank, was that really so hard. We motor south and I-95 is backed up so I take an exit to cut through down town. I know, you're thinking I'm crazy but honestly it was faster than parking on the highway.

I square up my fuel bill for 08Romeo and head out to the plane. A did a quick walk around for a control surface check and removal of the sunshades. Mary was aboard and ready to go and I quickly followed. I picked up the current ATIS info and taxied for the hold short to contact Wilmington ground. I am cleared to taxi to runway 19 on Bravo and hold short runway two seven. Once cleared to cross two seven I taxi to the very end, all 7012 feet. Mary asked where we were going...usually we get one of the closer taxiways and if its not hot I'll accept.
08Romeo is climbing out and we are cleared on course. The sky has cleared so we climb to 3.000 feet and cruise along. I do pick up flight following with Dover since we are once again crossing their airspace. As I approach Delaware Coastal (KGED) Dover asks my intentions since the last two planes going into OXB diverted. Say what? I checked weather it's VFR and the most recent weather is showing winds south-south west at 3 knots switching to winds variable, ceiling broken 10,000.  Great, my old nemesis the marine layer creeping in. Since OXB sits on the Sinepaxent Bay with a narrow island (Assateague)separating the bay from the ocean, we are prime for the marine layer condition.
I advise Dover I will continue for Ocean City and once again update the weather. As I approach, now about twenty miles out, I can see the coast AND that layer just off shore lurking. It doesn't seem that bad, actually looking more clear south of Fenwick towards Ocean City and Assateague than north up towards the Delaware shore line. We continue to make our way and switch over to Ocean City once Dover requests flight conditions and turns us loose. I make my position calls at ten and five miles noting a twin Cessna's position calling in with position and a request for fuel.  UNICOM responds fuel is closed for the day but self serve is available. The Cessna responds that he will look elsewhere. I continue my descent for runway two-zero and make a nice landing.
As we taxi back I hear the twin Cessna announcing his position, now on short final for runway one-four. I advise the Cessna I am holding short of 14-32 for his arrival and watch him land. We cross 14-32 and turn for the temporary tie down and the Cessna turns for the main ramp at the terminal. I so want to key the mic...Dude, they are closed. I just laugh and pass on giving him directions to the self serve. As we secure 08Romeo we hear the Cessna fire up and taxi out to runway three-two. Ok, he must have his shorts in a wad since he's now taking off with a tail wind and screams up and out. The pilot makes a steep bank left then right on departure and flies off. Bizarre...

A fun day of flying and visiting family in Wilmington. I'll be focused on the weather for the next few days as I plan our revised departure date for Boston.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Local Coastal Hop

My best friend growing up was John I, way back since our grade school days at St. Mary Magdalen. John and I spent many an after school together writing out pages of the geography book for punishment of some sort handed out by the nuns. John was thought of as another son when he was at my home, to the point my mother would always say I should be more like John...sigh...insert eye roll.
I knew Helene, Johns sister, as a little sister of sorts, and as we grew older we became skating partners. Helene(or 'bird' as we called her)and I always remained friends even though time and distance has taken our lives in different directions. John and I are still friends and sadly time and distance affects our friendship too, I wish we still lived closer. Best part of it is, John or I can pick up the phone and pick up right where we last left off like no time has passed, he is truly a second brother to me.
Anywho...as I get distracted reminiscing while I type this I should note that Helene and her husband Dana were in town with friends. We caught up on Facebook and I offered a flight to see the area. The plan was to meet up at the airport terminal and I would drive out to my planes new home, the ramp. :(
I uncovered and answered some questions Dana had asked during my pre-flight.  We all climbed aboard and I did a quick briefing for escape and quiet times except for pointing out traffic, which they both did during the flight.
We took off on runway three-two and circled left to the south, then east headed over the Castaways campground where their friends were staying followed by a turn north up the beach. I shadowed the bay side of Ocean City, Fenwick, Bethany and Rehoboth turning 08Romeo over Lewes and the Ferry Terminal. We swung out over the Delaware Bay to follow the shore line of Cape Henlopen and follow the Atlantic coast south back towards Assateague.

It was a  perfect flying day with great visibility and a chance to spend time with friends. I hope to catch up again when they are back in town.  Thanks for the fun trip today Helene and Dana!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Foreflight Graphical Route Advisor v9.3

I always like to dig into the latest updates from Foreflight. Version 9.3 is now available for download. The following information is taken straight from the Foreflight page as well as their you tube video that details the updates.  
 
Of course I have to give the new toys a try so I'll plan a trip for Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and check out the graphic representation of the available routes.
 
I start out at the flight plan page (FPL) and select my start and end points. Next, click on the route button, middle right side.
 All the routes for the proposed flight appear on screen with the text version to the left.  Toggle through each to see what best fits your plan. When you have decided click the 'select route' button. Who the heck is taking that route to Long Island then AVP?
The selected route will load into the FPL screen. 
Next click on the file button, in the FPL screen on the bottom right. Select 'Flights'.
 
Here you can change your estimated time of departure (ETD), read through your briefing and look closer at the nav log info. When everything is good to go click the 'proceed to file' button, bottom right side of the page.
Here you can select 'next flight'
Add your new destination
Select altitude and routes will populate for your selection. 
Select route and follow the file steps previously used to create the first flight.
 
Please take the time to watch the Foreflight video, then experiment with your iPad and get familiar with the new features.  There is no better time to learn the buttonology than sitting in your favorite chair, flying along safely, on the ground.
 

FOREFLIGHT 9.3

Graphical Route Advisor, Performance-based Step Climb, Flight Notifications

Also in this release: faster basemap, improved terrain, scheduled flight search, weather layer time slider, and more Published on Sep 5, 2017

You can now preview all route options visually on an interactive map with Route Advisor. Simply tap through the list to highlight each route on the map, then tap “Select Route” to add it to your flight plan. An interactive Route Preview map in the Flights view provides a quick visual reference of your route, showing the departure and destination airports overlaid on a simple base map.

There are also enhancements to the flight planning workflow in the Flights view: the Add Next Flight button makes it faster and easier to plan multi-leg flights by carrying forward departure, aircraft details, payload, fuel policy, and more. You can also export your flight plan in the official ICAO format and print, email, share via AirDrop, or save a copy in ForeFlight Documents.

 
 

 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Oil Change and New Rapco Pump

A short flight on tap today from Ocean City to Elkton Maryland for scheduled service. I filed last night just in case Claremont was covered by a layer, been there done that drill before.

Today was different, it was the first time I had to uncover the plane in many years. With the start of taxiway construction I was now banished to the tie downs. It's a process; cover, tail cover, nose plugs, pitot cover, preflight outdoors and worst of all nowhere to park. I did manage to tuck my SUV inside the fence line, just beyond the self serve pumps, but I still had to walk back and forth, I am so spoiled.

I picked up the weather and launched on runway two-zero. I planned on cruising at 4000' and contacting Dover approach to pick up my clearance. I was maybe twenty miles south of the Waterloo VOR (ATR) and made contact.  I was cleared to 58M direct DuPont (DQO) then direct, climb and maintain 5000'. Easy peasy, chug and plug, I'm on my way. 
Busy north of Dover
Dover handed me off to Philly well before the typical north of the Smyrna VOR (ENO). Philly was busy so I patiently waited and they called me, I hate that. I made the course and altitude deviations as requested and advised I had the weather. Philly gave me one traffic call out at my 12 o'clock and below me, I responded looking for traffic.  I had the aircraft on ADS-B, it was the Delaware State Police helicopter N2SP.
Shortly after reaching the new assigned altitude I canceled and switched over to monitor any traffic for 58M. I made a nice landing and taxied for the shop. Roger was there to marshal me in and I shut down right in front of the shop doors.

Stan was going to do my oil change and he did a great job tracking down my leak. I thought it might be coming from the right mag but it was above that. The vac pump seemed to be full of oil and with the help of a small dental mirror we could see it dripping from the pump.
Once the unit was removed we found the pressed oil seal that sits inside the adapter assembly [2] (to the engine) had a bad seal. Since my Airborne pump has 700 hours and I need to be able to fly IFR on the Boston trip, I decided to immediately replace the pump. With a pump change it was decided to change the filters too, keeping it all clean.

The Old
Tired Airborne Pump pictures
 
The New
New Rapco pump
Once the pump was hung the filter soon followed along with seven quarts of Aeroshell 15W50. Everything looked good so we pushed 08Romeo out to the parking area in front of the shop for a run up and leak test. I let the oil warm up then advanced from 1000 RPM through 2200 RPM. Pressure looked great, the temps came up and the vacuum was steady between 5-6 depending on the rpms.
vac pump engine port
Adapter assembly
New pressed seal
the largest tweezers I have ever seen!
With the checks completed we placed the top cowl on and finished up the paper work.

08Romeo is ready to take on the Boston trip, with fresh oil, a new dry vac pump and a pilot anxious for hours.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sint Maarten Vacation

The time has come for a vacation get-away to someplace new, an island, in the Caribbean.
Mary and I really wanted to get away and as luck or timing would have it, Pam and Ted asked if we would like to go to Sint Maarten. We're all in!

Friday 8/25

A quick review...

After a great Beach Boys show Wednesday night and visit with family, we dropped our zoo off for boarding on Thursday.

We packed our bags and decided to turn in at 7pm.  Why so early?  We needed to be at the Salisbury airport by 5am, which means leaving to pick up Pam and Ted by 4am.

We got up at 3am to finish getting those last items packed, house secured and make some sort of breakfast. Pam and Ted were on time and we are on the road by 4:15. I made great time and even included a Royal Farms stop for drinks to wash down the pork roll sandwiches I made. Unfortunately, it goes down hill from here.

Salisbury Terminal...

We get checked in at Salisbury airport (KSBY) and await the TSA opening up the scanners.Of course the body scanner is not working today so I have to walk through the doorway device. After multiple attempts and my heads up to all my metal parts the agent gives up,  and requests a full body pat down, oh joy.  Even though  I had a pre-check, I now have to surrender my Nike's so they can go through the scanner again. After a pat down I'm finally cleared to join the general population.
The four of us are getting excited about our planned get-away.  The excitement is short lived as we notice the ground crew and flight crew starting one engine after closing all doors and hatches. I concentrate on the cockpit where the captain seems to be ticked off as he throws a clipboard and other sheets of paper across the glare shield, maybe the flight manifest. This series of checks produces an announcement that departure will be delayed until 7am.

Immediately we are in jeopardy of not making our connecting flight from Charlotte to Sint Maarten. Checking the Charlotte flight departure time reveals we need to be boarded by 9:20. There's a slim chance. We eventually board and get in the air. Our flight was smooth and lands with just enough time to 'maybe' make the connection. The pipe dream is short lived as we now have to hold short for our gate to clear. This really stinks!

We get into our gate at 9:14 which leaves just six minutes to board our flight at the other end of the terminal, not happening.  We proceed directly to rebook our flight, now slated for a 2:33 departure to Miami.  With hours to kill, Pam gets us into the Admirals club. My first experience with the club access, it's quiet, clean and we are treated like royalty. Comfy chairs, good food and open bar, I could get used to this. The flight to Miami was fine except for the frigid cabin temps.

It's finally time to board our flight and we quickly settle in. The cabin temps on this flight are perfect, much like living on planet earth. Our previous flights today have been, for lack of a better term, polar. We get into Sint Maarten well after nine.

The search for home...

Once the SUV rental is secured we try to follow the directions provided by the homeowner. We may as well be locked in one of those escape room adventures, it could not have been more vague.  I took on the navigator roll and with one new to me GPS and the email directions, we were heading out. Dear God, could this have been any more complicated. I've included a taste of the email directions.

Exit the airport compound turning right onto the main road.

Main road? Does this road have a name?  There were multiple airport exits and a road name other than 'main' would have really helped.

Travel approx. 1.0 mile and go past the Westin resort, stay on the right hand side of the road, expect a narrow roadway and follow this road (some short gravel and very bumpy sections) 0.5mile and you will reach the gates at Dawn Beach Estates (on the left).

The Short gravel and very bumpy description is very kind, this was off roading at its best, without a doubt. Somehow, Ted managed to find the place despite my navigation help.

We all decided on a midnight swim to close out day one.

Saturday

After sleeping in we each slowly emerged from our rooms ready to have some breakfast. We didn't eat since dining on the pretzels and drinks provided by the airlines last night. The only problem was we needed to grocery shop and it's never good to shop on an empty tummy. The plan was to head towards the French side of the island for crêpes.  We couldn't find anything open so we headed back to the Dutch  side at the cruise ship terminal area.  Plenty of places to shop and eat. We decided on Chesterfields situated right on the water. We were served good food and the service was ok.
With full tummies we headed off in search of groceries. There were plenty of small mom and pop shops but none that I would feel comfortable with. Then we found the Le Grand Marche', a super store grocery shopping experience that puts any Ocean City Maryland store to shame. The staff even pushes the cart to your car and loads the groceries in your vehicle, great service, what a concept.
We headed back to home base, Villa Dolfijn, and unloaded our booty. The group decided on plenty of pool time, working on our tans and dreaming of our planned grilled filet's for dinner.
The BBQ grill, supervised by master griller Ted, provided the absolute best black Angus filets and roasted potatoes, onions and peppers. Life is good on the Island.

Sunday
A lazy day of pool time, sun tanning, reading and grilling about sums it up. We did manage to shower and dress for dinner over on the French side. We left around three for some exploring and ended up at Le Tastevin located in Grand Case, ahead of our reservation time.
The restaurant was empty so we had prime waterfront seating.
There were sailboats anchored just off shore and plenty of beach activities.  I was treated to multiple arrivals overflying the coast for the Grand Case airport. It seems most of the aircraft were de Havilland DH6 Otters, with a few Cessna 208 caravans.
Our waiter was excellent, providing top-notch service, humor and magic. We each enjoyed perfectly prepared dinners; Mary had Sea Bass, I had scallops over mushroom risotto, Pam and Ted each had lobster, monster lobster, they were huge, each weighing three and four pounds respectively.
We eventually made our way back to the SUV and pointed for home. Retracing our route we found our way without a problem. As we traversed the gravel bumpy section we each laughed at the thought of our ride helping speed up digestion. The homeowners need to get that road paved. Mary and I turned in for the night while Pam and Ted went for a before bed swim.

Monday

Rise and shine to an overcast day making  the island of St. Barts vanish in the fog. As I sat poolside typing this there was a very light misty rain rolling in. We stayed dry, protected by the eight feet or so of overhang covering the gray weathered teak table and chairs. Ted and I each were distracted by our electronic devices while Pam picked the remaining Lobster clean for tonight's lobster cakes.
Mary slept in with a start of a headache and upset tummy. Meanwhile, the rain had started to pick up so we all moved inside. I randomly checked on my bride while catching up to today's events here on the blog. It's time to open up one of my books I downloaded for this vacation, reading while enjoying  the sounds of the ocean waves and the light raindrops on the pool was very relaxing.
Ted and I ran to the market to pick up a few items on 'the list'.  An exciting drive into town after dark, with no GPS. We made it out and back without issue; no locals, dogs, cats or goats were harmed, despite their best efforts to test Ted's driving skills. Once the groceries were restocked we settled in for the evening. Mary has been down all day and she thinks it's food poisoning. I'm just trying to keep her comfortable and hydrated.

Monday comes to a close after a fantastic lobster cake dinner prepared by Pam. Great friends, good eats, our life is very good.

Tuesday

I had a good night's sleep and Mary got up a few times, but she is feeling a little bit better. I was anxious to catch the sunrise this morning, but checking the posted time on the internet, I just missed. Maybe tomorrow will be the day.
Mary stayed in bed, for now, but is going to get up and try to function. I went out poolside and enjoyed a glass of lemonade and the view. Pam was already at poolside reading and Ted was just joining us. Eventually I went in to start breakfast and we enjoyed eggs over medium with toast and home fries. No meat today, instead I put a scoop of pasta salad on my plate, yummy.
 
It was closing in on 9:30 and the temps were rising, it's time to hit the pool! The water and view was prefect and I did my 'six million dollar man' imitation running around the pool in what seemed like slow motion. Running in the water has helped with working my foot to step more square, flatter, than putting more weight on the outside edge.
south view
Mary came out poolside for some tanning and a dip or two in order to cool off. I fired up the grill to cook up lunch and we spent the remainder of the day hanging out, reading and watching the news coverage about Huston.

Wednesday

It was a slow start this morning but we all eventually made our way to the great room. As a group, the decision was made to head out for breakfast over on the French side. It's a short ride to the other side of the lagoon and we found a nice little spot to eat at La P'tite Pause.
This eatery was set up as an outdoor cafe' and the cooking was done in a separate outdoor room adjacent to the cafe'. Our hostess spoke only in french and she was very bubbly. The meal was very good but I was confused by 'salad' on the menu. My order was eggs, bacon, toasted toast (another one I didn't get), salad, juice and a hot drink.The salad was baked beans or something very a similar and the toasted toast was in fact toast, but, with no butter.
We finished up and bid goodbye with the added, merci beaucoup, such a worldly guy. The next stop was shopping for the ladies near the cruise terminal. We were not allowed in without cruise ship credentials. Since that was a bust we headed to Maho Beach and the Sunset bar for some cheap entertainment.
Somehow we snagged perfect seats along the beach, just at the waters edge. The group enjoyed drinks and some munchies while we watched aircraft approach and land.  At least there were no idiots hanging off the fence, instead, they were lined up across the two lanes along the beach at the roadway.  I watched a few nut tickets get sand blasted and blown across the sand but no real tumbling tumbleweeds.
The group explored a bit more of the area before heading back to Villa Dolfijn.  With full tummies and overheated bodies we all settled in the air conditioning once home. Pam read, Ted took a dip in the pool, I updated my blog and Mary took a nap.
As a group, thoughts of dinner started to surface. Ted took the lead making meatballs and cooking a premade tortellini with cheese and spinach. Taking advantage of the large dining room table we gathered to break bread together and share laughs from today's travel adventures.
With our appetites squelched we watched the latest updates from Texas and tropical storm Harvey. It's heartbreaking to see what fellow Americans are going through. We pray for their families and the safety of the first responders and many volunteers. Americans stepping up, no politics, no race, no religion, just people helping people. Mary and I go to bed this evening thankful for our friends and family.

Thursday

Our last full day on the island! We tossed around a few ideas for exploring the French side in greater detail. I made a arrangements for Mary and I to look at a sailboat, a what!? Yes, a sailboat. I have been exploring potential places to live for the winter months, in Florida, with our zoo. Rentals are out of the question with pets and we don't want to be locked into any one place that requires yearly HOA fees or property taxes. The temporary plan comes down to another motorhome, 5th wheel or a boat.
The boat of interest is a Moody 34 or 346.  A thirty-four foot fiberglass monohull, center cockpit. The ride to find the boat yard was an adventure. Down the mountain we went, through town and past the airport to the French side of the island. We managed to find the bridge and with a u-turn made it back to the correct driveway. There by the roadside the broker was waiting to lead us through the gate.

Tony was a very nice man and shared his knowledge of a few boats we had discussed and sailing. My lovely bride said she wasn't climbing the ladder and with that I figured this was a total waste of my time and the brokers. I was frustrated but Tony asked some great questions to help narrow our search. Being totally honest he said the Moody wasn't big enough for a winter home especially with our large dog and recommended a Hunter. With Tony steering us away from what I thought to be a great priced boat that would meet our needs I was instead disappointed and disgusted that I wasted everyone's time.

We said our goodbyes and headed for the French side shopping and bakeries. The ladies walked Ted and I up and down the streets and into a few shops.  We did find crêpes and enjoyed a cool drink with the good eats.
The heat was taking a toll so we loaded up for home. Forty minutes later we were all bobbing in the infinity pool like corks. We shared a dinner and then relaxed before heading off to pack for our flights tomorrow morning. Mary and I will be flying back to Ocean City and Pam and Ted will meet up with friends for a week on Scrub island in the British Virgin Islands.

Friday

We are up early and help get things squared away. Breakfast is not really on anyone's list but we all manage to pick on something. Pam and Ted are packing up for the quick hop to the British Virgin Islands to meet friends. Mary and I packed last night and if I was thinking straight I would have taken the early flight out of Sint Maarten. We are finally ready to roll for the airport by 10am, check out time.

One last treat of driving through Sint Maarten and listening to all the horns blow for thank you, keep it moving, and the typical USA honks. The roads are busy but we make the airport in good time. Check in is easy even though they do not have the electronic pass scan available so you must have a physical boarding pass. With a  quick check of our documents we are headed to the gate to wait for our flight. Ted and Pam catch up for a brief goodbye and head to their gate.

More American Airlines fun...

As we wait for our flight at gate A3, we hear an announcement that the flight has been moved to A4, no problem, its a short walk around the corner. Once settled in at A4 the first delay is announced, this can't be happening again. We were scheduled for departure at 2:27 and now not scheduled to board until 3:10, which technically makes us miss our flight from Charlotte to Salisbury. Just before we board I get an email from American to call and change flights, so I called. We got on the earliest flight to Philly since there was nothing else available and that will be Saturday morning. There was also nothing available to Baltimore. Maybe I should have checked Norfolk, but, I didn't think of it at the time.
I'm already getting aggravated but figure we can drive home from Philly if we need to, if there is no flight available to Salisbury.  Before we leave the gate my electronic ticket info is updated and we we're booked on a flight to Salisbury, at 9:38pm Saturday night. About now I could rocket out of my seat and fly home with out the plane, I calm myself down and think of solutions.

The plane ride was excellent, good temps, pretty smooth, well at least until we let down for Charlotte. The tailwinds were great and we were going to arrive in enough time that we had a chance, CHANCE, to get back on the Salisbury flight for tonight. I still held the old boarding pass so I had the info. As our luck would have it seemed we were vectored all over the place and then entered IMC conditions for the approach. As we broke out of the clag the plane really bumped hard and the passengers gave a collective gasp, except for one idiot that laughed, yep,me. I got a few strange looks.
Our chances were slipping away of making the original flight but we still tried. All we had to do was clear customs, recheck our bags then sprint for the gate. When we got to customs it was mobbed, the cattle lines were full and moving swiftly and efficiently wasn't even entering my mind.  We Moooed along like a good herd and finally cleared customs and then got our bags.

I asked the American airline agent about the chance of getting back on the Salisbury flight and she said, after calling the gate, "they are more than half boarded so you really don't have a chance". I thanked her, then turned to Mary, mumbled a few 'words' in Italian and said were driving home tonight. Yes, I got that look but we were both in agreement and just wanted to get home so we could pick up our zoo on time.
We rented from Enterprise and the challenge was on. I set up my phones GPS and plotted our course, it said we would arrive at 4:24 am, it was now 8:30pm. I can do better. I could not possibly know the route we took other than Route 85 to Route 58 across the Bay bridge tunnel and home. We made a stop for fuel, which took eleven gallons at that point, along with some food and drink from McD's. Hammer down for home was my motto and off we went. I drove through heavy rain north east of charlotte and then showers, off and on, along the way. We passed through plenty of road construction, thankfully it was overnight and not during the day because one lane each direction would have been a nightmare. With the fuel and food stop we made it home at 5:10am. We locked up the vehicle, walked in the house, and passed out.

The aftermath...

We were up at 8:15ish and stumbled around the house trying to find those extra toothbrushes you get from the dentist that you keep, just in case.  Well, this is that "just in case".  All our bags were still in the rental and we were not digging anything out. We manage to look presentable and find something to drink as we lay out todays plan. We have to pick up Inky, our cancer kitty at 10:00, have the rental dropped off by 10:00 and pick up Ziva, George and Jake at another place. I can hardly think straight but somewhere in there we need to get my SUV that is still parked at Salisbury Airport.

I unloaded the bags from the rental and just rolled them into the garage, we'll deal with them later. We decided to head over to Salisbury in the rental to spring my SUV out of long term parking. Now $70 lighter in the pocket, Mary is following me back to Ocean City to drop off the rental. We pull in at 9:50, good timing for two sleep deprived people. We don't waste any time as we get right back on the road, now pointed west bound again, this time for the VCA clinic.  We arrive just after 10am and get to see our Inky boy. The staff at the clinic is excellent, Inky boy looks great and he has his meow back, we haven't heard that in weeks. Mary is happy, I'm relieved, both of us still very tired and now I'm hungry. We point for home and make a stop for breakfast at a local place just a few blocks from the house, Inky is fine in the SUV.

Once back home I drag the bags in and go through everything.  Mary does the same and we notice the tired is gone, I guess we are getting our second wind.  The grooming and boarding place calls, Ziva is ready after her bath and nails, so off we go. A short ride maybe fifteen minutes and the zoo is all aboard ready to go home. I'm not sure what we did the rest of the day, it was a blur. We did finally go to bed, maybe around 7:30 after having a pizza delivered for dinner. Mary and I didn't get up until Ziva wanted out around 5:40.

The takeaway...

If and when we leave the country again we will book the earliest flight out to head home and leave a multi hour layover as a cushion for the what if issues.
  • We may consider Baltimore (BWI) and just hire a limo for the ride.
  • Pack lighter!
  • Find a pet sitter! The zoo cost us $1100 for boarding while we were away.
  • Travel in country, use 08Romeo for transportation.
  • Buy a real camera for better pictures.
Despite the travel issues, it was a fun trip. A new destination explored, and time spent with great friends. As always, it's great to be home!

UPDATE 9/3

Now that I am calm I decided to call and find out about a refund for the Charlotte to Salisbury flights for Mary and I. The American airlines rep was very professional, he asked for flight numbers and dates and put me on hold to research my info.  Mike, the CSR,  came back on the phone and confirmed my email, home address and phone number and advised a refund will be sent(3to5 days)to us for the flights not taken. Glad I calmed down before calling, it makes life easier on everyone involved.