I went over today and picked up my faithful flying steed from the mechanic shop following it's 50-hour oil change, and since there was nary a could in the sky and no wind at all, I took off and headed west after a call to Flight Services to confirm that I'd have decent weather on a long-planned airport-hopping trip.
Climbing out of the Shenandoah Valley, I followed the Potomac River west towards Cumberland. Here's a train bridge crossing it.
Nice "control tower/FB" eh?
Then it was westward, towards Morgantown, WV. But wait--where'd my blue sky go? Once I started going west into the mountains, the sky started to get cloudy and dark and damned low. WTF? This was not in the script. Sight. Radio to 122.0 and let's talk to Flightwatch.
Me: "Hey Flightwatch, I'm over Lonaconing, MD and I've got solid cumulus overcast at 4,000 that's darkening up real fast here. What's the story with this stuff? I'm enroute to Morgantown, WV VFR."
Flightwatch: "We have an amended forecast for your area showing 6000 broken and Morgantown reporting 1500 scattered, greater than 6 miles visibility between Cumberland and Morgantown."
Not 6000 broken.
Me: I've got rain here, just west of Lonaconing."
Flightwatch: "Again, not showing any precipitation in your area."
Me: "Can you repeat? Having trouble hearing you over the sound of the rain on my roof."
Flightwatch: "Pilot reports are always appreciated..."
Me(Speaking aloud off-radio): "I'm trying to report rain, you dick."
Sigh. "Thanks, Flightwatch. Have a nice day."
But it was just a narrow band of showers, and I got past it pretty quick. The low ceilings and haze stuck with me, though.
At least the colors are changing nicely on this side of the mountains.
Turning around, I took a shot before going power on:
Next was Clarksburg, WV. Like in the song, Last Plane to Clarksburg, or something like that.
The tower cleared me in, and made this odd duck wait.
And something else that I didn't see there until I was looking at the pic of the turboprop there:
Pity I was just on a touch-and-go and didn't see that thing until I was going through the camera film. Might have to go back now.
I was going to fly down to Buckhannon, but the weather down that way looked as bad as anything to the north so I said "screw it" and headed back east again, pegging Barbour County Regional on the way.
Then I overflew the grass strip known as Simpson Airport, aka Linda and Barb's front yard. Wow. Just 1500 feet long. That's 700 feet shorter than the 2200-foot strips I'd hit earlier. Could I get in there? I overflew it, rocking my wings at the person on the farm tractor working next to the strip. I probably could get in if I was careful, but could I get out again and clear the trees at either end? Maybe that strip wasn't meant for 172s. And that tractor was awfully close to the runway proper and it wasn't moving away.
I chickened out. Damn it. I took a pass and flew on, knowing that it made sense but regretting not at least giving it a try first. And I pulled my pilot operating handbook for the plane out as I flew off and looked up it's take-off roll requirements. Light as I was and at that field elevation, I probably could have done it.
I like my plane too much to roll the dice on a "probably". But it still rankles me that I didn't at least try.
Frank Tallman would have done it, I'm thinking.
As I went back north and east, the clouds got lower again, and the terrain of course got higher. A couple of times I had to resort to heading up or down the ridge lines until I found a highway or river pass and using those to cut through to stay out of the cloud deck. Scud-running in the mountains is no way to grow old, I'm thinking.
But then I was through the worst of it, and the terrain got lower again. And here's Grant County, WV, just the other side of a 4,000+ foot ridge that I went around courtesy of the WV Highway Department.
In, out, and off to the northeast, heading for home.
By the time I got to within 20 miles of my home field, I had skies like this again:
3.6 hours flown, nine take-offs and landings. Now it's beer time.