I awoke Tuesday morning to beautiful weather. I felt kind of like a chicken leaving so early but I didn’t want to chance getting stuck in Wisconsin until the weekend. All that was left to do before my departure was pack up my tent, get a weather briefing, and go. I went for the briefing first. The guys from Lockheed Martin were located at the base of the tower. When I walked up there was no one there so they were more than eager to help. The briefer asked where I was headed, I told him Modesto California by way of Idabel Oklahoma. He gave me a big grin and told me he learned to fly in Lodi (about 40 miles north of Modesto). He gave me a very thorough briefing using the Lockheed Martin resources. Then he said he also liked to use another “unathorized resource” to get detailed weather information. The resource in question: http://www.runwayfinder.com . I thought that was pretty cool. He clicked on the the pushpin markers at several of the airports along my route to Oklahoma and the weather reported at each location was good. Weather was moving in from the west but I should have time to outrun it. He gave me his card and told me to call him anytime during my flight back and he’d try to get me updated weather. Very cool young man.
On my way back to my campsite I stopped by Homebuilders Headquarters to get a refund for my unused camping nights and was promptly refunded the money. Then I headed back to my campsite to finish packing. The previous day I had asked about the procedure for taxiing out for departure. I had my “VFR” sign ready but I wasn’t sure how to get from the tiedown spot to the taxiway. I was told to just pull my plane out into the aisleway and a volunteer would spot me and guide me out. I did just that and about 45 minutes later I didn’t see one person on a scooter or golf cart. An RV-10 was in the same predicament. I started walking up toward the main taxiway and finally got someone’s attention. After I got my course programmed into my GPS and got Foreflight all set up on the iPad I started my engine and he escorted me to the taxiway. It was a two mile taxi down to 36L but it makes you feel like a star. You have people on either side of you taking pictures. “You guys even know what kind of plane this is? Well, whatever.” I got up to the runway and saw 5 planes on final. I got the order “red high wing, taxi into position and hold.” Guess he hasn’t heard about “line up and wait.” Good. As soon as I taxi out and line up I hear “red high wing cleared for take off. Red high wing please depart without delay.” Guess he wants me to hurry. I applied full power, got up about a hundred feet or so and turned and I was outta’ there.
The departure had you climb to 1500 feet and hug the shoreline of Lake Winnebago, but not overfly the seaplane base. I did my best to do that though I never spotted the seaplane base. The early morning air was hazy and still and warm… again. I made my way to my first fuel stop of Galesburg Illinois. There were some hazy clouds to navigate round. It was hard to make out the edges for this California pilot but I was able to duck under them. After I landed I ran into some guys in a Zenith 601 that were headed in the same direction. Checked with them to see if they heard anything different about the weather than I did, which they hadn’t. I actually had a pretty good weather picture with XM weather on my Garmin 396. I fueled up and headed south once again.
The next stop was Mexico Missouri where I was delighted to find a MoGas pump! This was the cheapest fuel of the entire trip at less than $4 a gallon. However, it was starting to get really hot. It was 97 degrees when I landed and about 97 percent humidity. They offered me the courtesy car to go into town to get some lunch. When I got back I told them that I thought I was done for the day. Too hot to take off and now I’m sleepy after lunch. They hemmed and hawed about someone else maybe needing the courtesy car. Then they finally decided that no one else would likely show up. I gave them my cell number just in case (which they tested before they let me go) and then drove into town to find a hotel. So much for camping.
I was up at 5am, back at the airport by 5:30am, and waiting until I could see the sky before I took off. When it was bright enough that I could see there were no clouds (XM radio showed there were no clouds but…) I took off and headed south. A few hours later I was landing in Branson Missouri to top off. A quick fuel turnaround and a bottle of water and Coke later and I was up and headed south again. My next stop was Mena Arkansas. I probably could have made it all the way to my destination of Idabel OK that day but I played fuel pretty conservatively the whole trip. It had been a hot and bumpy approach into Mena. The landing was… well it was a landing. I got fuel, a free bottle of water, a free flashlight and was told the quickest way to get out of there. They made me feel welcome but they also made me feel like I should leave “real soon now.” So I did, it was only a 45 minute flight or so to my destination. This was perhaps the bumpiest part of my entire trip. The wind wasn’t blowing that hard but the washboard hills below just made for a bump ride for anything below 6500 feet. I didn’t want to climb that high for such a short leg so I decided to ride out the bumps. I was completely worn out when I got to Idabel.
I spent two days in Idabel visiting with an old friend from high school and her family. It was fun being reminded of all those things I spent years trying to forget. By this time I’d been away from my family for a week and a half and was really wanting to get back home. I cut this visit short too. The next day was Friday and I decided that would be the day I would finally set out for home.
Part 4 coming in a few days.