Last weekend, I took my longest cross-country flight so far. I flew Tom and myself from Greeley (KGXY) to Fort Worth (KFWS) and back. We had business in Texas, before anyone starts to think we actually decided to fly there at this time of year for fun. I always forget just how insanely hot it is there and it is a constant reminder to me to be nicer to people because I will never make it in hell for eternity with that kind of heat.
My son, Daniel, graduated from the University of Texas (motto: “What starts here changes the world”). Forgive me for a few moments while I brag. He received a degree in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry and will start his PhD program at the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana on June 1. Don’t ask me what theoretical and computational chemistry is. I have no idea. He surpassed my level of intellect a long time ago. Apparently, it is a field filled with nerds doing calculus and chemistry at the same time. I will stick to airplane building (still filled with nerds but no calculus and chemistry), but it is time to start the flight planning for cross countries to that airport.
I calculated that time in the air would be about 5.5 hours. Oh, how wrong I was. We took off on a lovely spring day over the Colorado plains. Those of you who have flown in this area know exactly where I am going with this. About two hours in, there was some unexpected cloud buildup so I decided to divert around it. I know, I know. Get the instrument rating done sooner rather than later. We took a little southerly detour and changed our fuel stop to Guymon, OK (KGUY). For those of you who have not been to Guymon, it is a lovely little airport, but geez, it is in the middle of nowhere. Guymon is in the Oklahoma panhandle and there is nothing but farm and ranch land for miles. We took the crew car into town for lunch where we ended up at the same cafe as Miss Rodeo Idaho, Miss Rodeo North Dakota, and Miss Rodeo South Dakota. It was a big day in Guymon. All the Miss Rodeos and ME! They are probably still talking.
Lunch was a leisurely affair. Apparently things don’t move quickly in the sticks. We took off an hour and a half later headed straight for Fort Worth. Tom, being the outstanding first officer he is, fell asleep immediately. I did not. The ride was a little choppy and I was working hard. The autopilot in the new airplane will be a welcome expense. After about two hours of that, we were still about an hour outside of Fort Worth-Spinks. I noticed a small airport just outside Sheppard Air Force Base and decided I needed a break. That turned out to be a great idea. We were in Vernon, Texas. The people there were delightful and after 30 minutes, I was ready to finish up.
So back in the Piper we went. We got to Spinks about an hour before the storm rolled in, made it through one of the worst landings I have ever done, and after 7.9 hours in the air, tucked the airplane into her hangar, and headed to my mother’s house for the best barbecue in Texas. If you are ever near Burleson, go to Jambo’s. You will thank me later.
Graduation went well and Sunday morning we were back at the airport. Which was at IFR conditions. With convective SIGMETs. And low level turbulence SIGMETs. And low level wind shear SIGMETs. So after staring at maps and weather for too long and a call to a weather briefer, I scrubbed the flight. We left Monday morning instead and it was beautiful. No diversions, no bumps, and Tom, once again, got in a nice long nap.
On the way back, I got clearance through the DFW bravo and through the MOA at Sheppard. Tom was not nearly as impressed or excited about this as he should have been. He said it looked like all the other air we went through. Non-pilots, right?
All in all, I am pretty darned proud of my decision making and my flying. It is amazing how much you learn on a long trip. We made it through and the airplane and I are still friends. Tom and I are, too. So all is well.
As ever, visit me at http://www.poweredbypilotfuel.com for the best coffee around.
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