Monday, September 05, 2011


This abbreviated vacation started to take shape in late August. Mary's birthday is just around the corner and we wanted to take a few days to bug out of town. Reservations were locked in and arrangements for our "zoo" was complete. It was time to make final flight plans and check 08Romeo's ready status.


Mary and I bagged a days work and headed for the airport. The plan was for an 8am departure with a lunch and fuel stop in Prestonsburg, Kentucky at Big Sandy (K22). 08Romeo was filled to the limit with fuel and paid for that full belly as she labored to climb to eight thousand in the heat, just twenty pounds shy of gross. Slow and steady we climbed and soon entered the clouds over northern Maryland. We were instrument conditions for thirty minutes or so then broke out and road along on top requesting twenty to thirty degree deviations for build ups along the way. Some of the buildups were huge, it was like driving in downtown NYC but now dodging buildings.
IMC ahead and above
On top
crossed the front
Three hours and fifteen minutes later we were entering the pattern for K22, Big Sandy (Thanks Chris for the tip). I cancelled IFR with approach and made my call on unicom. The airport manager, Gary, advised winds and welcomed us in. I made a nice landing and taxied in for the fuel tanks. We climbed out and had a nice chat with Gary and were fortunate enough to learn some things about the airport and restaurant. I knew I had to make the climb back to eight thousand but only ordered fuel to take me to a total of forty six gallons. The density altitude was over three thousand and it would be a work out to get to altitude. Did I mention how hot it was?
Final into Big Sandy, K22

We walked back behind the FBO and entered the restaurant, Cloud 9. The front porch was lined with rockers and flowers planted across the front of the building. Once inside the ceiling was done like a blue sky with wall decorations to mirror the surrounding mountains and puffy clouds. We ordered potato skins with cheese bacon and onions, they were excellent! Mary had a BLT and I had BBQ Pork sandwich minus the bun. We finished up lunch and walked back to the newly renovated FBO to settle our fuel bill. We said our goodbyes and headed out to the plane. I made the call to clearance delivery with the blue tooth connection on the light speed zulu's and noted the clearance info along with void times.

With a notch of flaps we were on the roll for departure. We climbed out staying in ground effect then once showing positive climb I retracted the flaps. Something wasn't right, I felt buffeting and realized I had an open door. I must have said at least three times, fly the plane. The airport is surrounded by hills and it was a bit of work listening to the stall horn chirp as I got back to final. A pucker moment in high density altitude conditions with a heavy fuel load, a learning experience. I hadn't even switched over to approach yet so I landed, closed the door and taxied back.
Ok, round two has us climbing out and contacting approach just under the void time in my clearance. We were headed to Nashville! No IMC conditions but plenty of huge buildups to dodge. I felt like the asteroids game but in real life. Eventually I was handed off the Nashville approach and together road along to position myself for a landing on the west side of town at John C Tune, KJWN. Another nice landing followed by a short taxi to the ramp. The line crew was excellent, one man brought the car out and offered to load our bags, another took our fuel order and a third came out to give us a message that our friend Jeff would be driving not flying in to meet us. I thought this was a pit stop rehearsal, these guys are good and make the piston crowd feel as important as the jet setters.
Our wheels for the get-away would be a Rav4, plenty of room and very good on fuel. Mary packed the GPS we purchased for her car and it came in handy. We programed the hotel location and saddled up to attack the Nashville interstate system. Nothing was moving to fast and our hop to the hotel was at a standstill due to an accident at our exit. Finally off the highway we made good time getting through the city to the Hampton Inn and Suites on South 4th Street. We unpacked then made plans to take the Gray Line tour for the Nashville Nights. We got cleaned up and changed for a 5:30 pick up deciding to be in the lobby a few minutes early to people watch. We got to see plenty of people, the tour was still not at the lobby by 6:45. I called to cancel and have our purchase refunded but was now faced with finding dinner. Based on a Hampton staff recommendation we choose the Sole Mio restaurant, a short walk across the parking lot. The food and service were excellent, we recommend this restaurant stop. Oh, the cannolis were to die for, yeah yeah, I know I killed the diet but it was worth it.


Saturdays game plan had a few changes due to tropical storm Lee making its way on shore in New Orleans.  It was heading our way and would be bringing rain mixed with wind conditions late Sunday afternoon into Monday, extending through Tuesday. The plan changed for a Sunday departure so we had a lot of ground to cover today. We decided to deal with the change and make the best of it so off we went to grab a light breakfast at the hotel.  As we sat to enjoy the breakfast buffet Jeff and his family walked in to meet us. Great timing and what a surprise!
Our first stop was the Nashville Zoo.  We met up with Jeff and family for a fun day at the zoo. Tickets were reasonable and Mary and I love animals so it was a good deal. We walked through the gates and followed the shaded path.  Most of the trails you follow are very well shaded which helped beat some of the heat. The forecast today was 100 degrees, yikes!  I paid for that canolli by sweating of the lbs walking today, whew, I was drenched.  I could go into details about all the exhibits we visited but I'll just let the pictures share the story. Enjoy!
After covering the zoo, in just over three hours, the group was getting hungry. We were directed to a place at the recommendation of the zoo staff. Cousers Southern Restaurant just across the street from the park was the lunch choice. We were quickly seated and orders taken.  We were all really thirsty!  The food was good, service pretty quick and prices very reasonable. I would eat there again.  After filling our tummy's we were headed to the Grand Ole Opry.  Once again the GPS comes in handy and gets us there without a problem.  The parking is wide open and we manage to land a spot close to the entrance.  The Opry has to large guitars out front and gorgeous wooden doors and window framing,a real work of art. We signed up for the backstage tour and then headed to the gift shop to wait on our time in the air conditioning.  Yes, we bought a few things but it was worth the cool air.
It was time for the backstage tour. Our group was ushered in and we watched a video about the Opry and it's history. The flood of May 2010 was also mentioned and the reopening in September 2010 of the Opry was an important milestone. The backstage tour provides a look at the behind the scenes. We were walked along the very route the stars take as they enter the building and into the "front desk" area for family check in's. There was the wall of hall members, an area of post office boxes for all the members to collect fan mail and multiple themed dressing rooms.  All the rooms along the hallway followed a path to the typical tv "green room" a waiting room.  At the Opry they call it the family room and it was very comfortable with pictures documenting the history. There was a metal bar added to signify the 2010 flood water height in that room, approximately four feet. I left the camera in the car so I only had my iPhone for photos, enjoy the pictures!

After the Opry tour Mary and I wanted to check out the TV show American Pickers Antique Archaeology store located on Clinton St. in  Nashville. Once again the GPS makes it a quick trip and easy find. The store was located in an old building now filled with shops. The Marathon Motor Works was an early automobile manufacturer, based in Tennessee. It grew out of an earlier company called Southern Engine and Boiler Works, founded in 1889, which made industrial engines and boilers in Jackson. As such, the firm had metal-working and power plant experience which could easily be transferred into the then-new and rapidly expanding automobile industry. It turned its attention in this direction shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. From 1911 to 1914 the company manufactured the Marathon automobile. Enjoy some of the "picks" we had a chance to see.

After our American Pickers walk back through time we decided to head for the hotel. Mary and I were beat! I wanted to shower and change before dinner and maybe take a short nap. We both got to relax for a bit prior to heading out for dinner, it was a welcome relief to my feet! The plan was to meet up at the Wild Horse Saloon on South 2nd Street, just off Broadway. Mary and I headed out early so we could find a parking spot and walk the row of shops and honky tonks.

A long day as a tourist finished up with a good steak and cold beverage in a perfect dining and entertainment destination. We made our way out to the street and over to the Hard Rock Cafe' to check out a few items in the gift shop then decided to call it a night. We had a short walk to our car just across Broadway on 2nd street. It was going to be an early start on Sunday since we would be leaving for home a day early thanks to tropical storm Lee.

Sunday 9/4

After watching the wx I decided it would be best to not retrace our flight down but instead run for the east coast as an added safety factor. The plan was to leave Nashville and make a fuel and stretch break in Roanoke, VA.  It would also be a new airport and a challenge getting stepped down over the mountains and into the valley for a landing, if I only knew.
Nashville clearance/delivery cleared me as filed climb three thousand expect seven thousand, it all sounded good. We climbed out following the departure noted and at three thousand received vectors to clear Nashville International, KBNA. Once clear of the airport I was turned on course to resume own navigation. This leg was in the soup, I logged an hour of actual. We had multiple hand-off's along the way; Memphis Center, Indy Center, Washington Center and finally Roanoke Approach. We were stepped down and flew close over the last ridge line into the valley. I was at the last minimum altitude assigned five thousand two hundred.  I reported the field in sight, handed to the tower and cleared for the visual runway six. I had some altitude to lose in a hurry,  I don't like to shock cool so I slowly pulled power along with "S" turns on my extended base to final. When I turned final I had four white lights on the VASI's. I had plenty of runway just in case but ended up with a real nice landing and turn off at the second taxiway just over the runway hump.
We made the stop at Landmark and were greeted by multiple lineman once again. One marshaled us in, one set the chocks and cones while the last man helped Mary off the wing, what service. I checked our fuel and placed our order. We decided to grab some munchies and something cold to drink for the last couple hour ride home. The nice lady at the desk was very helpful and got our bill squared away in short order despite the lineman telling her we took on two thousand gallons. Yes, this humor was received with eye rolls form everyone, such a funny guy.
KROA just behind the hill and to the right
I contacted ground for my new clearance and soon taxied out for departure, the last leg home. Once again I got the "As Filed" with an added on departure turn to 070. It was obvious that heading would keep us clear of terrain, we were sitting in a valley. I kept the fuel load a bit lighter and 08Romeo work her way to seven thousand as we climbed out of the valley and on course.
We once again dodged buildups and approach was very accommodating to all the pilots requesting twenty to thirty degree deviations. After navigating clear of the build ups you could hear all of us report back on course, it almost sounded rehearsed. I flew most of the way with my hand in my lap until approach advised he had a route amendment for me, advise ready to copy. I acknowledged ready and started to note the changes. The new route was direct TAPPA V16 PXT V16 ENO V29 DQO, a short cut that was going to take us directly over an air show TFR at Patuxent NAS.  Hmmm, ok if that's where you want me I'll take it, I thought.

Last layer into Wilmington
Finally below the muck
We ended up getting another change to avoid the air show and then one last chage direct to Wilmington. All the changes saved us time and fuel, that's a good thing. Dover approach handed us off to Philly and I reported in with the current wx info. Philly stepped me down through the layer sitting over new castle county and we cleared just a few miles from the field. I was handed off to the tower for a visual into runway one nine. I was at three thousand and needed to loose two of that to get to pattern altitude, which I managed just prior to turning base. cleared to land on one nine I greased another landing and made the first taxiway.  We were home!! We also made it in time to secure 08Romeo and get to the vet to pick up Maggie.

A fun trip despite being cut short one day. We hope to make a stop over in Nashville on the next trip south-south west to give us a chance to spend a day on Broadway and 2nd street and check out some of the beautiful architecture in the city.


D.B. said...

Sounds like a fun trip and good utility out of 08R. But I take exception to all the comments about 100 degree heat, high density altitudes and dodging build ups - this is what we, in the Southern plains, call "Summer" :)

BTW, sold my Sundowner, 49C is now living in Central Ohio.

ddf said...

Nice write up Gary, and a great job with the open door.

Unknown said...

Cool writeup... Now that u have experience with sluggish climbs due to heat and diverting again and again because of buildups, U r ready for everyday FL flying ;-)

Gary said...

DB, Ughhh....since I am now in an office almost everyday I really have a hard timne with the heat. Well, that and my fat arse!

Down 15 since my flight physical and still going, not sure how much I left in puddles in Nashville.

Glad to hear 49C sold, somebody got a great plane! We love our Sundowner, sure I wish I had a few more knots at times but the rommy cabin and easy in/out was higher on my list. When I grow up maybe I'll own a Bo someday too! :)

Gary said...

ddf, Thanks! Yes, Haven't had an open door in quite a while but it comes down to "fly the plane" everytime. I just didn't like the low altitude over the surrounding hills, almost lost my seat cushion! The door was my fault since I held it open for taxi in the heat and obviously didn't do a physical check after closing.

Gary said...

T.J., Yep, I'm ready! Maybe in the fall Mary and I will visit my brother in Jupiter. I hope it's cooler by then!!

Chris said...

Gary - Looks like a great trip, even if cut short. Some good decision making, there.

I'm glad the stop at Big Sandy worked out for you. As far as the open door goes, well handled! "Fly the airplane" is one of the best mantras ever invented. I had a door pop open on me in a rental Cherokee on my wife's first $100 hamburger flight on a cold Michigan morning in November. I'm still amazed and impressed that she continued flying with me after that.

I showed your zoo pictures to my wife. Looks like an awesome zoo. "Nashville, huh?" she said. The wheels were turning... Thanks for the inspiration!

Adam said...

Looks like your flight out took you pretty much right over Windwood. Did you get to sing at the Opry :) Nice write up!

Gary said...

The Zoo was nice, about three hours to see it all and a good bit is under shade. They have a really nice carousel (that Mary had to ride)and a very kid friendly jungle gym wooden park to run in,on and through....good luck keeping up with Bear in that place!

Thought about Windwood and W99 our typical fuel stop. Couldn't see much at that time was IMC the first hour or so then over a layer that only gave us a few peeks at ground. Yes, the tour group HAD to sing "you are my sunshine". insert eye roll here.

Jeff said...

Nice writeup Gary! It was great seeing you guys and spending the day together. I hope you didn't mind hanging with the kids but we all really enjoyed ourselves. I'm disappointed we couldn't fly but at least it wasn't a terribly long drive for us.

Geoff Nelson said...

Cool trip! I guess we should have cut our trip short too, but we were having too much fun. We'll have to check out Nashville sometime. The girls would love the zoo. Thanks as always for sharing.

Gary said...

We had a blast!! Would have loved getting that last full day in but we didn't want to get stuck. It was great to see Hannah and Bryan, man they are getting big. Mary really enjoyed Lori's company too, it made for a fun day. Hope to catch up again soon. I'll get the pictures to you via email.

LOL...Yeah, I understand, we were having fun too but faced with a 10-13 hour drive home we made the "lets go" decision. Bugged out on Sunday spent labor day at the house, out of the wx.

Steve said...

Finally had a chance to sit down (out of town for work this week) and read the whole thing. Great recap as usual, I really enjoyed your history of the places you visited - very interesting reading.

Nice job with the door, always fly the airplane, turned out to be a non-event as it should be! Too bad it was cut short but you gained some great IR experience and got home safe, a win-win in my book.

Frank Van Haste said...

Gary, let me add my kudos for your calm handling of the open door. It was and should have been a non-event...but way too many people have turned an open door into a disaster.

Good job!