Friday, February 3, 2017

Saddle up, we're going to Maine.

This past summer, mid-August to be exact, we saddled up the Cessna and set out for a vacation in my wife's home state, Maine.

The first day, we stopped for fuel and food in Fayetteville (AR), Cairo (IL), Cynthiana (KY) and Pittsburgh (PA) where we spent the night. The next morning we took off from the Allegheny County Executive Airport and landed at Finger Lakes Regional Airport in Seneca, NY for fuel and then flew non-stop to Waterville, Maine.

Two weeks later, our return trip took us from Lewiston/Auburn (ME) to West Hudson (NY) to Westminster (MD) to Greensboro (NC) where we stayed for the night. The weather system that flooded Baton Rouge was a massive, stationery system that reached from south Louisiana to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Timing was everything, and we didn't time it right--after taking off from Greensboro, we made it to Jefferson County Airport just north of Atlanta then cut west to Mississippi where the weather forced us to land and spend a night in Tupelo (MS). The next morning, we timed our departure to get ahead of the rapidly building storm clouds and made it to Crossett, Arkansas for fuel, then dodged our way through the storms and weather to Sulphur Springs (TX) and back to the home airpatch.

Here is a screen shot from ForeFlight of our route--lot of country we flew over.

And here is the weather we dealt with on the way back home. Not fun by any means.

Our first fuel stop at 0745 at KFYV Fayetteville, Arkansas. Normally in mid-August, things are pretty dry and brown. Thanks to the rains we had all spring and summer long, we had lots of lush greenery the entire trip.

Cairo, Illinois is located at the southern-most tip of Illinois where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers converge. Here we've refueled and just taken off from KCIR on runway 20. We actually had a nice tailwind pushing us for most of the eastbound trip.

A coal-powered power plant on the shores of the Ohio River in eastern Ohio as we were approaching Pennsylvania.

When you come in to land at KAGC Allegheny County Airport in Pittsburgh, they are prepared for unprepared pilots--there is a cemetery on the west side of the field, just off the taxiway and near Voyager Aviation. After a long day of flying, we preferred to stay at the accommodations we'd reserved at the Springfield Suites rather than the graveyard, so all due care and attention was given to the final approach and landing.

The folks at Voyager Aviation are top-shelf for general aviation. They took care of us and our plane with equal zeal and hospitality.

The next morning, it was a typical summer muggy, foggy morning. But not long after we took off and climbed above the gloom, the sun broke out and we got some nice views of western Pennsylvania farms.

Much to our surprise, there are wind farms popping up in western New York state. I hadn't seen these on previous trips. The turbines are not as plentiful as the ones you see on wind farms in Texas and the southwest, but they are there and rotating.

This is a great little airport to stop and top off your tanks. I love this area of upstate New York anyhow--so different from the congested metro madness you find in the southern part of the state.

We topped off the tanks right up to the tabs because the next stop was the final one in Waterville, Maine.

The Finger Lakes never cease to amaze and fascinate me. It's hard to appreciate them from the ground because you don't see the full enormity of these glacial lakes.

The terrain of western Vermont comes on you quite suddenly. On this trip, it looked like a rugged rolling carpet of emerald.

On this leg, we stayed above both the clouds as well as the mountains.

Once in Maine, we headed to Moosehead Lake where we spent several nights at the Blair Hill Inn. This was the view from our window.

And another view.

I caught this picture as an afternoon thundershower was moving across the mountains.

This picture is taken up near Kokadjo where my wife's family had their camp for decades.

Lily Bay State Park is a ten-minute drive from the Blair Hill Inn, so we paid it a visit and spent some time enjoying the beauty.

One of many, many coves hidden away on Moosehead Lake. This one is in Lily Bay State Park.

Every evening we'd retreat back to the Inn and take an adult beverage out to the porch to catch the sunset. Life moves a lot slower up in rural Maine--not nearly as fast and hectic as it does here in Dallas. I could get used to that relaxed pace.

Sunset over Moosehead Lake as seen from the porch at Blair Hill Inn.

If you blink more than a few times, the sun is gone and the moon is now up above you.

Did some sporting clays and skeet shooting at an incredible club north of Bangor--the Hermon Skeet Club. Only downside was that it ended up being the hottest day on record for Bangor--and with incredibly high humidity. I had to check my GPS to make sure I wasn't in Houston.

Shade was a nice place to be when you weren't shooting.

This is Mill Pond, a five minute walk from my sister and brother-in-law's house in Windham. The water is cold, clear and clean. Great place to cool down on a hot summer day and the neighbors are known to try out their new kayaks and canoes. In winter, it can freeze up solid enough to ice skate on. This is where our two nephews grew up. What an incredible place to grow up in.

This is the pond looking to the east.

No trip to Maine is ever complete without a trip to the coast. Here is Pine Point Beach in Scarborough on an overcast, windy day--a precursor to the weather we'd be departing in the very next day.

This guy gave me an idea for summer employment if we ever decide to split more time between Texas and Maine.

We capped our stay in Maine with a traditional lobster dinner at The Clam Bake in Scarborough. Lobster simply does not get any better than when it was swimming just a day before.

No pictures were taken on the first day of traveling back to Texas. Between negotiating weather and the Boston and New York Center airspace, all our attention was inside the cockpit. But on the second day, we got a break here and there and managed some interesting pictures. This is a small portion of lake Norman in southwestern North Carolina.

Near Spartanburg-Greensville in South Carolina, we spotted this very large rock quarry.

Further south in South Carolina, a huge lake shares the border with Georgia. Lake Hartwell is just as spectacular from the ground as it is from the air.

Lake Hartwell in the southernmost portion of South Carolina. That's Interstate 95 just north of the Georgia state line crossing over the lake.

After negotiating both more weather and the edges of Atlanta's Class B airspace, we pointed the nose west towards Texas. Soon after crossing over into Alabama, we saw this interesting body of water perched atop a big Alabama hill. We found out later that it is an auxiliary water supply station.

The country band of the early 80's, Alabama, often sang about the might Tennessee River. Here it is. It's huge and actually more like a lake in a lot of places.

Directly overhead a wide spot in the Tennessee River in Alabama.

As we were nearing the western edge of Alabama, we spied this incredibly long valley. This is looking to the south. It is equally as long looking out the starboard side of the plane to the north.

This is where bacon begins--a genuine pig farm. Even at 8,000' msl it can make your mouth water.

Once again, by middle of the afternoon, that stationary frontal system was producing hellacious weather. It stopped us about twenty miles east of Oxford, Mississippi and given that we heard Memphis Center re-routing FedEx, airline and military flights, we figured our Cessna was no match for Mother Nature. Tupelo was nearby so we diverted, landed and grabbed a room at the Holiday Inn Express for the evening.

The next day flying across western Mississippi, Arkansas and eastern Texas would prove to be the most challenging in negotiating the weather. As you can see by our route, we made lots of deviations for weather.

The last picture of this adventure I'm posting is of our Stratus unit. It picks up, among other things, weather information and displays it on your iPad via an app called ForeFlight. It's not real-time and there is a several-minute delay. But it is invaluable for helping you plan weather deviations.

We landed back at the home airpatch around 3:00 (1500 CST) after an 0900 departure from KTUP in Tupelo, Mississippi. That included a fuel stop in Crossett, Arkansas and a landing in the rain at KSLR in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Just west of Sulphur Springs, the weather broke long enough for us to make a straight shot back into the northwest Fort Worth area for an uneventful, but blessedly welcome, landing home.