Friday, October 10, 2008

North Carolina Vacation

Day 1 Friday
With a plan to get up early and bug out of town dashed by IMC forecasts in North Carolina, we slowed the pace down and enjoyed our first day off. The schedule of events was a short list at best; drop off the Maggie muffin (our dog) and then make a stop at Mom and Pop's (Marys Parents). My call to 1-800-wx-brief confirmed what I picked up on my latest morning brief of conditions. The Carolina forecast was opening up and should be clearing around noon with intermittent showers still predicted. Mary and I finally made it to the airport around 11am and I pre-flighted 679er. We loaded up our luggage, set out our headsets, placed my flight bag on the back seat along with a few other odds and ends to complete the loading process. Aeroways arrived to top off the tanks and I sumpped as the last item on my pre-flight check list was now completed.

Wilmington Tower directed us to taxi to runway one nine at Kilo, hold short. As I approached one nine I was asked to position on taxiway Mike to allow another aircraft to exit the runway. No big deal, I acknowledged and did my run up on Mike. We were ready to go and received clearance to take off. 679er was on the roll, eating up the center line stripes and climbing out on the runway heading. I was asked to sidestep east to allow for traffic inbound on the runway one ILS. I had the traffic in sight, it was no factor. After we passed I was directed to resume own navigation. As we crossed the C&D canal I flipped over to Dover Approach and picked up flight following. Mary was already nodding off so I switched to isolate in order for her to have some quiet nap time and help ease her sinus headache.

The ride was smooth and visibility good as I cruised along past Dover, Georgetown (KGED), Salisbury (KSBY)and Newport News (KPHF). Once south of Newport News and working my way towards First Flight (KFFA) the clouds really made their presence known. The cloud layers were at 1200-1500 scattered and 6000 overcast as we continued south of the Chesapeake Bay. I requested to go off frequency for a weather update and Norfolk acknowledged. Flight watch returned my call quickly and the update confirmed what this mornings report had forecast it also matched what I was looking at. Norfolk approach handed me off to Oceania then in turn to Washington center. The scattered layer was now around 1200 with good ground contact along the coast. I didn't see First Flight but did see Manteo in the distance as it started to rain. A Mooney canceled IFR that was heading into Dare County (KMQI) and I followed suit cancelling flight following. I switched over to MQI's CTAF and heard the Mooney report his position, I was a few miles behind him. I made my position calls and entered the left down wind for runway five at midfield. Base to final over the water and now aligned for landing I noticed I had some geese waddling across the approach end of the runway. As I passed over the shore line Mary was my bird watcher and I decided on landing a tad long to add some safety factor. Smooth landing, geese no factor and a easy taxi to our tie down. I called on unicom for our rental car then shut 679er down for the weekend. Our car was at the plane before we could climb out, that's good service.

With 679er covered and secured at her home away from home, our vacation was officially underway! First order of business was to get my bearings squared away and give the map a quick review. Ah, piece of cake, we headed out of the airport noting the Aquarium location and reading all the local historic attraction signs along our route. It was less then ten miles to the hotel as we traveled through Manteo to the "big road" Rt 64/264, made a left turn and headed over the Washington Baum Bridge,one of the many area bridges we would cross on our vacation excursions. Mary and I both noted places of interest and local stores enroute to the Surfside Hotel. Mary also noted the outlet shops, she was looking for the Coach store (handbags for all the men reading). Sure enough before we got to our turn off there it was, calling her name, Mary...come shop here...Mary.... (more on this later).

Check in was quick and the folks at the desk were very nice. I asked for a lunch recommendation and they quickly said to try Sugar Creek and try the shrimp special. I schlepped the bags to our room, we freshened up and headed out. The restaurant was one we had passed on our way in and it didn't seem to busy this time of the afternoon. We were quickly seated and I immediately order a tall sweet tea, ahhhh, my favorite southern specialty. Mary had an extra dirty martini and we placed our orders. Calamari for starters, the shrimp special for me and an oyster sandwich for my Bride. The food was excellent and the service just as good. We rounded out day one by scouting out the area and planning the weekends adventures. We both agreed to pass on dinner since our lunch was late and filled us both up. However, we did make a late run to the Dairy Queen just across the highway for a snack!
Day 2 Saturday

We had hoped to get some beach time in then fly to Ocracoke for lunch but the weather was cloudy and windy. Instead, we decided to do the complimentary continental breakfast and get out and about. I wanted to check on the plane after such a windy night to ensure it was still under cover and that worked out since a good many attractions were on Roanoke Island. The day was busy with stops at the Elizabethan Gardens, North Carolina Aquarium and Fort Raleigh. Our lunch stop was at Darrell's, a great place with excellent service and the food fantastic. Of course I had a big ole sweet tea and Mary a Blue Moon Beer as we checked out the menu. I ordered up the lunch special, flounder and shrimp with mashed potatoes and a side of coleslaw. Mary had oysters and hush puppies, I am starting to notice a pattern here. We really love seafood so this vacation would be nothing but. It was getting on in time and we wanted to get back and relax for a few. After taking naps (hey, we're on vacation) we freshened up and headed out for a more intense scouting mission, this time to the north (I was trying to stay clear of the outlets). We made it up to Kill Devil Hills as we extended our search area for pottery shops. We found one, and it was just ok at best. We saddled back up and headed south towards Nags Head. We did decide on a quick dinner even though it was getting late and we should have passed on the thought for the evening. Who could resist a stop at Sonic? We didn't, so a chili dog and cheese burger later we were headed back to our room full tummy's and ready to sleep, like puppies.
Day 3 Sunday

Sunday started out the same as Saturday with cloudy and windy conditions. Mary and I still were in search of pottery so that became the mission for the day. We found a few places listed that were in Manteo, how did we miss these places I'll never know. We passed on the hotel breakfast and instead went to Grits and Grill. Good food and service again and the grits were perfect, I really miss southern food, cooking and that accent.......Hmmm, Mary is looking at me funny, y'all. We did meet a couple from Dover Delaware so that was pretty neat and a local lady introduced herself and struck up a conversation about homes, vacation, food, cooking and just about anything you can imagine, you just can't make this stuff up.

Tummy's full we were now on a mission to Manteo. We followed signs to the Festival Park, sort of a picnic park is how I would describe it. The key here is all the shops and galleries within a few blocks of the park. It reminded us of the waterfront at Block Island. We had a blast walking around meeting the shop owners and all the local cats that the shops take care of. A great adventure today and a fun time just spending it together with my Bride. It was time to head back since the sun was peeking out and the thought of beach time was looking good. Once back at the Surfside we noticed the wind was still kicking pretty good so Mary passed on the beach and instead laid out on the balcony of our room. While the Bride worked on her tan I took a nap, typed on the blog and watched football games. When the sun finally fell out of sight Mary and I got showered up and headed out for dinner. Tonight's choice was the Penguin Isle. When we walked in there were two wedding parties getting underway, I figured the food and service must be good. Mary commented that this place is also open all year round so that must say something good too. We were seated upstairs and glanced over the menu's. I knew what I wanted, surf and turf, Mary followed suit. What a nice quiet dinner for the two of us on our last night of vacation, we really enjoyed ourselves.
Day 4 Monday

Almost impossible to top last nights dinner but we thought we would give it a shot at Howard's pub in Ocracoke. Of course today's weather was perfect, bright sunshine hardly a cloud in the sky and no wind to speak of. Mary put in a few hours of tan time while I worked on finishing up my flight plans for the hop to Ocracoke and then from there back home to Wilmington. We did detour on the way to the airport for one picture that Mary wanted to take of a little kitty at one of the shops we visited. This little girl was so cute and so petite one could not help but love the lil' thing. Back my to planning, winds favored the short hop for lunch but it looked like a good head wind the whole way home. I decided that we would top off and make the run to both locations with a non-stop home. All my calculations pointed to 11 gallons remaining upon arrival at Wilmington (ILG).

We had already gassed up the rental, taken the extra pictures and now headed to the airport. I worked on my pre-flight inspection and Mary returned the car and also reminded the line guys we needed to be topped off. The fuel truck was out to meet me as I finished up, only needing to sump the tanks. Bags were packed, car returned and 679er ready to go. I taxied out to runway five and did my run up followed by my departure and climb out to 3000'. Washington Center did not have radar contact but did hand me off to Cherry Point as I crossed Billy Mitchell Field (KHSE). I rode along with approach for a few minutes then cancelled when I had W95 in sight. I announced on CTAF my position and intentions as we entered the left down wind for runway six. Base to final now feeling the winds off the ocean push us around as I make my way to short final. A bit of rockin' and rollin' and some throttle work has us descending below the dunes and setting down for a nice landing. Once below the dunes the torture of the wind isn't that bad at all. The airport has tie downs and I did notice plenty of ropes provided. I called For a ride on unicom and Howard's Pub sent out a six seat golf cart to pick us up. Our Driver pictured minus the golf cart.

Lunch was excellent at the Pub. I had sweet tea, of course, along with scallops, shrimp and coleslaw. Mary had a dozen of clams and you guessed it, oysters and hush puppies. I bet this place is packed on weekends, it just has that look and feel. It reminded us of a local favorite at home Stanley's tavern, sports oriented, great food and service. We each purchased shirts as a souvenir of our stop for lunch. Ocracoke has been on my to do list since I became a pilot, today, mission accomplished.

We saddled up for home and launched off of runway six climbing out to 5500'. Mary snapped a few pictures along the way and I added to the in-flight video collection. Cherry point handed us off to Washington center, Norfolk twice then to oceania and patuxent followed by Dover as we neared the end of our journey. The flight home was again smooth as could be, very relaxing and a perfect end to a great vacation. 6.1 hours of flight time over the last 4 days and plenty of good experience. How did the fuel work out you ask? I was hitting my checkpoints plus or minus two to three minutes, getting better as we headed north. I passed Salisbury seven minutes ahead of schedule overall running about five ahead.

I made my last tank switch about fifteen miles out of ILG, I was changing on a thirty minute schedule religiously. I know my left tank gauge reads more then whats in the tank but the right side is really pretty close. The right side read ten gallons and the left, when I switched, was bouncing between five and ten. Once on the ground I called for fuel and topped off exactly where I initially had been filled. Right tank took 17.3 and the left tank took 20 for a total of 37.3 gallons. A 48 gallon usable and some basic math tells me I had 10.7 gallons left. I was happy to see my calculations and trip times were on the money especially with the constant headwind all the way home but I rather make my stops and keep more fuel in the tanks.

Vacation completed it's now time to finish my IR. With my test complete, I hope to be finished up with the check ride this month.


Rob said...

Looks like a great trip, and sounded much deserved for both of you too.

Flew through some Yuk on the way down,... made me nervous just looking at the photo. How about that airport with the runway against the bay,... neat for landing I'm sure, but a little nerve racking for T/O if you had an engine problem.

Nice work on the calcs,... gotta love it when the plan comes together smoothly.

Steve said...

I can't wait to have the ability to make all these trips - you're constantly making me jealous with all your XC journeys. And you're making me want my own plane...

Dangerous, I tell you!

Great photos, too Gary - thanks for sharing. :)