I slept for most of the night outside, under Freddy's wing. The pilot's lounge was a bit grungy and lacking of the air quality outside, so I slept on the tarmac until I was awoken by the patter of rain on my face. I gathered my gear and ran inside to sleep for the rest of the early morning. At 0630, I was awake and ready to see what the troposphere had in store for me. There were clouds all around, radar returns of rain and a few thunderstorms here and there. But generally VFR (Visual Flight Rules) conditions. So off I went! Into a few very light rain showers. I was able to get some weather in the cockpit, and I enjoyed the challenge of threading my way through the rain clouds. Rain is not so bad, but the visibility and chance of downdrafts make me head elsewhere. The rain was from my south heading north east so I turned north and flew until I could turn west through a corridor through the rain clouds. With some maneuvering also due to some mountains, I ended up flying this way and that, quite enjoying my last leg of the outbound trip.
I landed straight in to Lander and was greeted by a good friend with blueberries! I'd been eating the same food for the last five days, so it's a welcome break from my normal fruit, veggies, hummus, cheese, nuts and triscuts. (Yes, blueberries are still fruit, but I did not have the luxury of having any along.)
I was greeted by the airport manager, who helped me out a few years ago when I was here, and told where the courtesy car was, which I am now using. I fueled up, unpacked and did a little clean up of Fred. I must say it was hard to leave the cockpit and come into town. In the cockpit of a plane, everything is at my finger tips. It's like a station for my mind and body. Everything within reach. It feels like a chair of action. And it's been my home for the last week. Though the trip is really only half way through, as I have to get home, I'll be out here for a week and won't have the time to fly until the week is done. Freddy has done excellently, keeping me safe and happy and moving along to the west together despite fronts, clouds and the like. We picked our way along.
All told so far:
24 hours of flying.
2000 nautical miles flown.
288 gallons of aviation fuel.
$1000 in gas charges.
And the experience of piloting my way across the country instead of being herded like cats through the commercial airline system, to have explored my way across the country, instead of being asleep at 700 miles per hour, to navigate through cloud layers and thunderstorms, to have to land early, and make fuel and runway length calculations enroute, most of all to see the beauty and wonder of the sky up close was absolutely extraordinary. I very much look forward to the return trip and hopefully I get some tail winds! (Average speed heading west was about 95 knots or about 109 mph.)
I've now settled into the NOLS Noble Hotel, got my favorite room and am overloaded with memories of pre- and post- expeditions on land and water, in the summer, winter, fall and spring. It's too bad, NOLS doesn't have flying expeditions. There's a lot to be learned in the sky.
So many many thanks go to my uncle Tots, with whom I first flew as a young boy in Freddy more than 20 years ago, for igniting my interest in flying. And to he and my aunt Lol, for holding onto Freddy all these years, and for your support and encouragement of my flying adventures. These magical adventures would not happen otherwise. The two of you have shared the sea and the sky with me and opened my world to all they have to teach and offer.