After succumbing to the fact that my flying was over for the day in Kitty Hawk, NC., because of thunderstorms, a new plan was put into action. I took this time to order food and be completely lazy in my hotel room. There was a brief moment of guilt that my gym shoes would remain in my suitcase. Very brief. That was a great night of sleep!
The next morning, after partaking in the free breakfast, (and of course snagging a few items for my traveling cooler!) it was time to continue my journey. There were a few directional options but the summer weather continued to bring the chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Getting back to Ohio or at least closer, was my main objective for the day. Looking at the map, I decided on a route that would take me through Roanoke, VA. This was a new destination and I love to add new airports to my log book! This was also a route that would offer lower elevations over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The forecast predicted the cloud layers would be hovering on the lower side all day with the potential for cumulonimbus development. Grrrr. Those pesky boogers!
Let’s Go Already!
There was no time to delay my departure. The longer you wait in the summertime, the less time you have before those clouds start building up. Because First Flight Airfield has no fuel, there would have to be a fuel stop between me and Roanoke.
There are certain things to look for in an airport when flying cross-country:
1) Fuel availability: Self-serve or full-service? (I’m a full-service gal. Apparently, my friends put me in the “high-maintenance” category. Whatever.)
2) Size of runway: Is it a comfortable length and width? I usually compare the size to my home airport.
3) What are the predicted winds at the airport? The surrounding terrain can impact this (on a hill or in a valley?).
4) Is it right-traffic or standard pattern? Right-traffic used to scare me off but it’s actually not that bad once you’ve done it a few times. It is something you want to know before your arrival.
5) Vicinity of the airport? Is there anything around, i.e., a town, in case my time there ends up longer than anticipated (that’s happened…)? There are some pilots that discard towered airfields but they’ve actually become my favorites. These airfields usually offer many services and amenities that you may not find at untowered fields. Don’t shy away from towered fields for fear of tower communications. Force yourself to fly to towered fields so you can get comfortable with the communications. It really is easy. Not once have I been yelled at for not using the perfect pilot lingo.
There were no problems getting from FFA to my fuel stop at KEMV (Emporia-Greensville Regional Airport) in Emporia, Virginia. It was a very well taken care of field with no traffic. It was dead. I love looking at the guest sign-in books some airports have out for newcomers to sign. Reviewing the book here, I noticed one man signed in repeatedly, with each visit. Why would he do that? You’re not a newcomer if you’ve been to the airport more than once! People are interesting. There was a very quiet teenaged boy working the fuel and manning the FBO. He took my picture after a little prodding. He obviously didn’t like socializing. I forced him to anyway. 🙃 He was probably really relieved at my departure!
Oh No! Roanoke!
As me and my little plane got closer to Roanoke, things got a little more challenging. The clouds were closing in a bit and it was getting bumpier. Smooth flights are happy flights. This was predictable and I had many conversations with myself as things got bumpier. Singing and talking to myself seem to help me relax when things get a little hairy. Sometimes, eating candy keeps my nervous energy at bay. There is always some type of candy or gum in my flight bag! Roanoke’s airport is tucked between mountains and in my experience, flying near mountains always brings on the bumps. That was certainly true on this day. Thank goodness I knew to expect this! I was glad to get on the ground, relax, and get the feeling back in my left (yoke gripping) hand again!
Open House and Free Lunch
Roanoke was the perfect stop. There was a flight school near the FBO that was hosting an open house where they were grilling up burgers and hot dogs and showing off their airplanes. This was the perfect time to make some new friends too. It’s always a success if I can make one new connection anywhere. This was a top-notch school…with top-notch chocolate chip cookies.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Part of me wanted to stay because it would be easier then fighting the bumps all the way home (and hotel rooms are a good excuse to be lazy). I also knew that once the mountains were cleared, the air could potentially be smoother. It wasn’t.
The next two hours were rough and exhausting. There were storms popping up here and there. My route and ATC took me in several directions. There was no real imminent danger because I’m cautious to maintain at least twenty miles from a storm but the word “flexibility” was my mantra during this time. I was always looking for the nearest airport to land at as well, if needed. The last twenty minutes of the flight were spent trying to release enough of the tension in my neck to be able to land my little plane.
It was a satisfying relief to be back on the ground at home. Walking away from my hangar, I knew that this was another great learning experience. There was always an “out” if needed and there was no giving up even if it was not a gentle, relaxing glide through the air. It was still fun and my confidence gained a few points.