2130hrs. Full dark. Advance the throttle and roll off down the runway on a planned cross-country night flight to New Market, VA.
Flight Services gave me a clear shot weather-wise, with the caveat of the potential for some "pop-up" thunderstorms west of my path, however a short time into my flight, I started seeing lighting flashes ahead, including some impressive cloud-to-ground strikes. Thanks, FSS. New Market'll have to wait, because I wasn't about to go mix it up in that stuff in the dark over mountain terrain. So I banked over towards Winchester, VA and ran a simulated engine-out drill, announcing my position and intentions to any other aircraft before chopping the power back to idle and gliding it over to the airport and in. I made it and set it down smooth as silk but honestly I could have handled my glide set-up a bit better.
Then it was a 180 (more or less) and I flew back north and across the Potomac River into Maryland on an approach to Hagerstown Regional. The tower was just closing for the night when I made initial contact from 20 miles out, but the nice controller made sure that I had all the info I needed for my approach and subsequent departure and he gave me an update on the weather to the south as well--some pockets of light rain surrounding some smaller pockets of severe thunderstorm activity, presently over the New Market area. Choice to abort New Market flight plan was a winner.
By the time I reached Hagerstown, the tower was closed and the airspace had reverted to Class G--uncontrolled. This wasn't a big deal as I was the only thing flying for miles, unless you count all of those big jets that I kept seeing way, way up there where Cessnas can't go unless they're disassembled and packed into a big jet. I dropped down onto their runway 27 for a full-stop landing, then took off again and flew back towards home. I skimmed back over the Potomac at 3,000 feet, all the while pondering the injustice of those other aircraft up at 30,000 to 40,000 feet that I kept seeing. I have GOT to get a more powerful, higher-flying airplane.
And sadly, the Stearman that I've been mulling probably won't come off. The aircraft in question flies at present but it was converted to a crop duster back in 1946 and the conversion was a thorough one. Converting it back to something usable would probably cost me more than buying one that's not a duster. But I'm still looking at a few angles as it is a 450HP model and those things are incredible!
Anyway, I made it back home and made a "no dinosaur" landing. (The dinosaur on my dash board didn't tip over--the mark of a practically perfect landing, only possible when there are no witnesses about.) Storms aside, it was a great night to be up and I got another 1.5 hours of night flying and three more night landings in the log book. Now I'm home at the Lair, drinking beer and throwing a toy for Murphy. Life's good.