Sunday, September 25, 2022

A Day at the Outer Banks

The weather was absolutely gorgeous today! Mary and I decided mid-week that we would head south and spend the day in the Outer Banks, Nags Head to be more specific. The last time we were in Nags Head was June 2016.

Departure Day 

We were both up early, I had to take care of the pets and my bride headed for that first cup of coffee. I do the pets in the morning and Mary takes care of them in the evening.


I did a final weather and NOTAM check, and made sure the cameras were indeed charged and packed. Time to hit the shower and then look for jeans since the temps may be a bit cooler then usual today. After some thought I stuck with shorts and brought along a long sleeve cover just in case. 

I had taken on limited fuel yesterday, so to complete my pre-flight I needed to sump the tanks. I limited my fuel because here in OCMD it’s $7.25 a gallon. Dare county full serve was $6.24 a gallon. The plan was to tanker as much fuel home as possible, keeping just under the magic 2650 lbs ramp weight limit. 

After some warm up time I back taxied for runway two after picking up my clearance with Patuxent. This morning I was immediately released. 

The air at six thousand was a cool fifty to fifty-five degrees. Mary and I actually had to turn the heat on to take the chill out. 

Pax handed me off to Norfolk and they in turn handed me off to Oceania. Oceania eventually handed me off to Cherry Point. 

Once I had the weather I canceled and switched to CTAF at Dare County. I set up for runway three-five, a first after many trips there. Three-five has quite the displaced threshold but useable is thirty-three hundred feet.
Once shut down Mary went in to secure the rental, a Ford Fusion. I ordered fuel and took on thirty-four gallons to bring me to sixty total for the ride north.

We were like two kids, off on an adventure. First stop was Roanoke Island Festive Park.

The sailing ship Elizabeth II was docked and open for tours. One of these days I’ll climb aboard and have a look around. 
We decided to make our first stop the Wanchese Pottery shop. No kitty today, Miss Hazy Daisy passed a few years ago and there's no new kitty in the shop, Yet. 

Mary and I remember the original cat, Pots. There he sat usually curled up in a bowl on the counter. Luckily we met him and hazy daisy in our previous travels. 

Both Mary and I ate a very light breakfast this morning. I had rice pudding and my bride had yougurt. We were both getting hungry.

As we walked down the Main Street we were overcome by the smell of burgers cooking. So much for seafood, we were seated at an outside table at the Lost Colony Tavern and each ordered the Wagyu burger and split a Scotch Egg appetizer. The meal was very good and so was the service. 

Once we hit all the shops we decided to drive over to visit Nags Head. We checked out the hotel we typically stay at and some of the cottages, maybe there are Airbnb’s to investigate for our next visit.

After checking out the shops, restaurants and hotels, we headed back across the Washington Baum Bridge to Roanoke Island. The last stop would be the Christmas Shop before returning to the airport.

The fuel and rental car were paid when we landed so it was simply drop the keys and go. The winds had changed now favoring runway five. With a full belly of fuel I’m sure 3 Tango Charlie appreciated the additional runway length. With the cool temps 3 TC climbed her way to five thousand five hundred. I contacted Cherry Point and picked up a squawk code and flight following for the ride north. Another beautiful flight, this time north up the coast. 

Virginia Beach came into view just twenty miles south of the vacation get-away. We crossed the Chesapeake Bay noticing more tankers at anchor then this mornings south bound pass. Now traveling north up the peninsula Mary and I were searching for traffic, a Grumman Tiger. 
After fifteen minutes we finally had a visual as the Tiger passed overhead. Once locating the traffic and noting the weather at OXB we canceled with Patuxent and let down for Ocean City. It was busy in the pattern and with the single runway and no taxiway it was a bit congested. 

I entered the left down wind for two-zero and had a school plane report left base for the same runway as I was getting ready to make the same call. Yikes! I quickly announced I would extend my downwind and asked the base turning plane if he meant crosswind, he did. No harm no foul, I turned base and landed offering to clear the runway at the taxiway H end so he could land. It saves time to both back taxi together since there were aircraft headed for departure. It all works out if we just communicate. 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Finally, Laurel, MS and HGTV's Home Town


Maybe the saying the third times the charm will apply to our planned get-away to Laurel, MS.  Our last attempt was washed out along with a back-up plan to Charleston SC. One of multiple previous posts on the planning, Mission Impossible.

Our plan was to switch it up a bit, following the coast south to Charleston as our first stop then making the hop to Laurel later in the week.  We thought that would confuse the weather Gods. Unfortunately, Charleston looks to be burdened with thunderstorms for the week. New plan, scratch Charleston, onward to Laurel, MS.

Our typical planning is in high gear as Mary and I rearrange accommodations at each location along with rental cars. Everyone at the hotels and car rental were excellent to deal with. 

I always check for hangar space but there is no availability in Laurel. I guess will have to drag the cabin cover with us on this trip, that will be a first.

I probably should address the car rental scenario as well. Typically, when Mary and I fly to different destinations I pre-arrange a rental car to be dropped off at the FBO that we select. This practice of calling ahead has always worked and the local Enterprise office will drop off the car for us and then pick up on our departure day. 

While trying to arrange a rental car for both  locations I ran into a bit of a snag. The biggest pain was not being able to get through to a local office, instead, I got dumped to the National number. Getting dumped to the national number does not always guarantee having a car dropped off by the local office at your destination. Enterprise now hands you off, or as I put it, dumps you off, to the National FBO number. Thankfully, the people that work the FBO national number were a pleasure to work with. I set up both locations in a matter of minutes, to include selecting a vehicle, and ending up having a nice conversation with the customer service rep. Maybe that’s the number to call in the future, directly to the FBO national number. Who knew?


The most important part of the process is weather watching. I start as far in advance as I can in order to get a handle on weather patterns. 
The picture above is just a glimpse of the long range forecast. A more detailed weather report from the NOAA National Weather Service and VAF WX Center web page collection of charts provide a graphical look at winds, pilot reports, prog charts, turbulence, and icing.
The winds aloft look to be almost twenty knots on the nose starting at six thousand and increasing with altitude. The plan is to cross the Chesapeake Bay at six then ask for four thousand for the remainder of the flight. 

Departure Day, Tuesday

Our Ziva girl and the boys (cats) are going to be staying at home and looked in on by one of the vet techs we know. This is new to us and I’m always leary of anyone in our home or staying here overnight. We did check references from clients and the vets at the clinic. All recommendations were stellar so we shall see. I guess I could always remind the vet tech of my Italian heritage and my response to any “issues”. Mary said play nice. 
Time to head to the airport! Leg 1 will take us to our one and only fuel stop in Greenville, SC at Donaldson Field. Full service fuel is available along with multiple approaches if needed.
We launched from runway two-zero and climbed through the scattered misty layer to a beautiful blue sky on top.  I made my call to patuxent approach as usual with altitude and heading as directed in my clearance. 

Clearance, let’s talk about that. I was given a not off by time to call Pax and then the current time. At least I thought that’s what I got. Pax approach asked me why I had taken off prior to departure time. I explained I heard call if not off by time and I had been cleared. They said they would listen to the tapes. Apparently it was a clearance time of 8:35 and call if not off by 8:40. FYI, I called Pax control as soon as I landed to review what happened. 
The remainder of the first leg was uneventful, that’s a good thing. I made a nice landing on runway five and taxied in for the FBO AvServ. Fuel was the best price on the field and the gentleman that fueled the plane was chatty, in a very good way. He was interested in heading to Laurel but it would be in his RV. He also mentioned he learned to fly in a sundowner. The FBO had clean bathrooms, and snacks were available in the lobby. 
Tanks filled to 55 gallons total and we were ready to get the fan turning. It was warm but there was a beautiful breeze on the ramp. 
I taxied out for runway five after picking up my clearance with ground. The ground controller and I had a nice chat about the Commander and flying in the mid-Atlantic. He and his wife looked for a commander but ended up buying a Piper Saratoga. They needed to bring his son back and forth to college and he mentioned his wife packed a lot of shoes. Mary really had a good laugh on that comment. 

I had to wait at the hold short watching planes land, eventually  getting my chance to take off. This leg was over the mountains climbing to six thousand four hundred as directed for terrain. 
I did get a reroute around Atlanta that pushed me farther north west clear of their mode C ring. I expected as much, and they did not disappoint. Insert eye roll.  
The remainder of the flight was smooth with frequent T-45 traffic passing beneath us at two hundred plus knots. 

I let down for Laurel and it went from smooth to somewhat bumpy, but not uncomfortable. I made another nice landing on runway three-one and taxied for Laurel Aviation. Once shut down Mary went in to secure our rental, a "small" SUV. I emptied out the plane and was getting ready to put the cover on when the manager (Matt) came out to greet me. I gave him my fuel order, 17 gallons each side, and asked about hangar space. Typically for transients overnight there is a charge. However since I bought fuel he gave me three nights of hangar space no charge. Now that’s customer service!
Mary drove out on to the ramp in the largest SUV I’ve seen, a GMC Yukon. It was huge! I had to learn to drive a CDL vehicle all over again. 
Our first stop was the Hampton Inn to check in, then off to look for dinner. We somehow found our way into town, stopping at the Scotsman shop when it came into view. 
This was the perfect first stop. The folks there were very helpful and they had maps of town with all the go to locations.

We also found a company that does a tour of town with a history of the lumber industry that drove the towns expansion. The tour, Bolton Home Town Tour, will hit the hot spots and homes that were done on the show. 
After a quick look around and a plan to revisit later this week we headed for dinner. It was a short drive to Mimmo’s Italian Restaurant. 
The chicken piccata was very good. Restoration of the older buildings in downtown made for a fun experience. As I work on this first day post we are digging into our desserts to go. 

Day 2, Wednesday 

It’s a beautiful morning in Laurel and our adventure continues.  First stop this morning is a light breakfast at the Bird Dog Cafe’.  
Mary and I each ordered scones. I had bacon cheddar and my bride selected sausage and herb. Now scones are really dense compared to croissants but they are perfect with a hot tea, chia, or coffee. I ordered a banana nut to go for later this afternoon. 
The plan is to explore the the Laurel Mercantile shop before we head over to the Home Town Tour location. 

Absolutely loved the old buildings. Tin panels were used for the ceiling tiles and crown molding. The brick is exposed after removing two to three inches of plaster. The hardwood floors are in excellent shape and they all squeak. Truly a step back in time. 

Mary needed to have a prescription filled so we located Wells Pharmacy. My bride said the folks were really nice and very helpful. Serious old school set up with a soda fountain in the pharmacy.
While waiting for my bride to finish up I got a call that our 11am town tour was pushed back to 2pm. The owner had called to let us know they had to recharge the seven seat golf cart.

Time to explore an antique market and few stores next door. The first shop we entered was odd shaped, long and narrow. I asked the nice lady working what the building was originally designed for and she said lumber drying kilns. You can see some of the gorgeous pine floors and heavy encased beams overhead. 

We made our way through the few shops and the antique center. A nice walk down memory lane looking at the many different dishes, glassware and bowls along with furniture.  
Mary and I were starting to get hungry so we made our way to Pearls Diner.  Pearls opened at 11am and we walked in at 11:30 after circling the block looking for a place to park this massive SUV. Once we ordered and found a booth we enjoyed BBQ and fried chicken. Two sides for each of us, Mac and cheese along with sweet potato casserole. I also had banana pudding for dessert. 
We waddled our way back to the SUV and sat for at least ten minutes with the air conditioning blasting. I think we were both stuffed and that food coma feeling was taking hold. I pointed for the hotel so we could freshen up and relax for a short while before heading out to the tour rendezvous point. I did say food coma, and with that we rescheduled the Home Town tour for 10am tomorrow. 

Day 3, Thursday

Our Bolton Home Town tour is on for 10am. Time to find a quick breakfast and get ready to explore. We did the Hampton hotel breakfast and then took some time to charge our phones and catch up on some news.  

We were early for the tour and met a nice couple from Hawaii.  Originally the lady was from Laurel. We told them we were from OCMD, but grew up in Wilmington DE. They both said, "then you know Joe Biden”. I responded, I’m sorry did you say despise Joe Biden? Mary gave me a firm nudge as the couple said they liked him. We all agreed not to talk politics and instead just enjoy each other’s company on the tour.

I will post some of the homes we passed and try to remember who and maybe what season they appeared in. 
Adam Caron’s shop
The wallpaper design guy
and artist
Miss Pearls home, season 2. Now an Airbnb
Mary and I with ‘Clint’ Bens truck

The Saxton house season 3, now an Airbnb

Group shot with Erin’s mom, Karen. We met her while shopping. What a nice lady. It was so nice of her to spend time talking with us. We wished her well and are looking forward to seeing her on the show this season. 
Me and my bride at the Mercantile

Drawing a blank, can’t remember which house or season.

Home Town Tour transportation
DJ, our tour guide. 

Our lunch stop today was Sullivan and Sons, the next store up the street from Pearl's. Todays lunch was peach cobbler with peach ice cream, reverse dining at its best! The cobbler was delicious. 
Southern Sisters shop

Southern Sisters shop

Our next stop was Southern Sisters. This shop had collectibles from local artisans. One wooden bowl was crafted from pine removed from a home that dated back to 1835. 
After shopping we headed to a local place, Hand+made that boasts the best lemonade. Mary and I each ordered the peach lemonade, it was very tasty and had fresh fruit added in. It's worth the stop!

We called it a day for shopping and touring and headed for the hotel. We did make one stop back at the Scotsman shop for a T-shirt and Mary picked out a cutting board. Now it’s time to relax before we head out to dinner later this evening. 
Time to dine! This evenings choice is the Blue Crab Grill. Driving and directions have become 2nd nature, finding our way around without the use of the GPS. We have found driving west then north from the hotel a short distance is faster, with less lights and stop signs, then turning east for town.
For dinner we each ordered Angus burgers with cheese, and they came with homemade buns. The beef came out double stacked with plenty of cheddar and onions. Mary enjoyed a cold beer and I had more sweet tea. The restaurant was very industrial.
I did immediately noticed the firearm signage on the door as we entered. This is my first find since taking my concealed carry class. 
I did want to make one more stop to get a picture of the signage in front of each city building. The mayor had these signs put up, if you disregard this notice upon entering, you will be fined.  

With all our go-to places crossed off our list we headed for the Hampton and looked forward to a good nights rest. When we entered the building we met a couple walking to the elevators. When visiting a tourist town everyone asks where you’re from. The couple volunteered California and said thank God there are not homeless people everywhere, and this town is so clean and friendly.  Mary and I were stuck in stupid for a bit then acknowledged in agreement how friendly everyone was here. I don’t remember if we even said where we were from. 

Day 4, Departure Day

It certainly looks to be beautiful weather for our trip home. My flight plan is simple, reverse the routes from day one.

The plan was to get in the air by 8am in order to beat the heat and get home late afternoon.  Unfortunately, the plane was not fueled, and when I paid my bank labeled the purchase fraudulent. What the heck? I had to call, answer all my security questions then rerun the charge card…good grief. 
We finally were wheels up just prior to 9:30. I was cleared to seven thousand, not what I had filed for. We were then held at three for traffic and finally cleared to five thousand, crazy. I managed at least forty five minutes of IMC cloud busting all the way to our first stop back at Donaldson Field, KGYH. 3 Tango Charlie took on thirty-seven gallons, I hate headwinds. 

We turned as fast as possible and quickly climbed back to altitude, now pointing for home.  The direct shot from GYH to the Chesapeake Bay didn’t last long as my route was amended to keep clear of Charlotte, KCLT. 
As I approached Richmond I was given pretty much direct OXB. That too was amended for something with the Patuxent restricted area. This one was easy I would cross the Chesapeake Bay and head toward Accomack ,KMFV, then turn north for OXB.

I made a nice landing at OXB, maybe a tad hard but managed to ride a nice wheelie for a good distance. A nice ending to a really fun vacation.

Hours flown 14.1
 Miles flown 1650
IMC 1.0
New airports 2 - KGYH, KLUL