Leaving the Detroit River, I couldn't help but notice that the clouds were lower and thicker than the forecast I'd gotten. So I flew farther west than I usually do since I couldn't climb to my normal lake-crossing altitude.
Below me when I crossed the shoreline was a lot of low, flat farmland and in-land boat marinas of considerable size, some a mile back from the lake. The little road winding towards the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant is US-2.
Missing it's rudder and probably not airworthy at present.
As I flew east, the weather kept pressing me down. It was easy to land at more small airports enroute since I was pretty much flying cross-country at pattern altitude for most of them. But my new friends at Flightwatch (122.0) swore that there was no precipitation or convective activity ahead, so I kept on keeping on. I had excellent horizontal visibility so as long as I could stay 500 feet below the soup above and a thousand feet above the terrain, I was still technically good.
It's funny how that weather flying works. When I was a new pilot, I had no real fear of it because I didn't know any better. A couple of brushes with enroute IFR conditions, that included icing and a thunderstorm that was throwing horizontal lighting at my altitude taught me to have the proper respect for Mother Nature. For a while after that I was leery of any clouds at all, but now I've pretty much reached that happy medium where I have a fairly good idea of when I can and cannot fly safely, and there's always a book in my flight bag for the next time the weather goes south and I have to land and just wait it out, in a motel for the night if need be. I'm not panicky about it but I don't challenge it, either. And after this week-end, IFR training is definitely coming soon.
A couple more hops took me to Holmes County, Ohio's little airport. Since I was now under a low, solid weather deck, I decided to land and check the weather computers in detail and get more gas since it looked like I was going to be flying low and dodging weather for a bit. So I dropped in right in the middle of a crop-dusting operation.
An Air Tractor 802A was there getting pesticide. And there were three of them--this AT 802A, An AT 602 and one smaller AT 504.
They would whip in here, fast-taxi right up to the chemical truck, and take on a load without even shutting the engine down. Three minutes from taxi in, they'd taxi back out and take off as soon as they hit the active runway. These guys were hustling.
Murphy's fascinated, though.
I took Murphy out of the plane for some dog business and a drink of water, provided by the nice FBO lady. Then I took him over to the fence where a couple of van-loads of Mennonite kids were watching the planes. They seemed to think that a flying dog was even cooler than crop dusters.
an armed variant of this aircraft? I officially want one now.
I got fueled up (at rip-off prices) and then I got delayed almost ten minutes because the credit card machine and the fuel pump had a twenty-two cent discrepancy and the counter lady couldn't figure out how to handle it. I even offered her a quarter and told her to keep the change, but she wouldn't let me take off until she'd called her boss at home to figure out how to proceed over this $0.22 discrepancy. And I'd just bought over a hundred dollars worth of gas! Aargh!
Taking off again, I was back under the crap. But the weather computer and FSS promised me that it would soon lift as I was approaching the edge of the frontal system, and sure enough, just before the Monongahela River, the edge! Clear blue sky! Just in time, too. The terrain ahead gets hillier and offers fewer airports or other suitable emergency landing areas so I want more height and a longer glide path if need be. Besides, by this time my plane was totally coated with smashed bugs from all of the low flying.
And finally, here's "Windmill Ridge", just west of Cumberland, MD.
Coming into the home airport, I called ten miles out and was told to report right downwind for the active runway. I acknowledged and turned on my spiffy new landing light so that the tower gang could see me coming over the last ridge. Suddenly it got too quiet. The static that's always just kinda in the background in my headset had disappeared. I voice-checked my intercom and it was out. Flipped over to AWOS and it was dead silent. WTF? Radio out on final? Not cool.
"Fix it," Murphy piped up from the back seat.
I slowed my approach and started checking things.
The radio stack was still lit up, so it wasn't that.
The plug for the headset with good, and so was the headset controller on the floor. What the hell could it be?
A sweep of the breaker panel found a breaker button popped out. "Landing Lights". Great. I switched off the lights and pushed the breaker back in. The radio came back on. So now I know that my headset control runs through the landing light circuit breaker, and I know that the 250W taxi light I just installed is a "FAIL". Guess I'll be swapping that back out next free day I get.
I set down right at dusk and enjoyed a fantastic sunset as Murphy and I met Jeff and Tammy, the couple who now has the tie-down slot two planes from mine for their Cessna 172N. Nice folks. Then I unloaded the plane, gave it a good post-flight check and put another 4.6 hours cross-country time in the logbook. Life is good.