Friday, November 04, 2005

Day 3: Ohio to Wisconsin

Hello gang. On day three, I awoke at 6am from a nice sleep on the couch. My goal for the day was to try to make it to Madison, Wisconsin to see my favorite band, state radio, which happened to also be heading there for a show that night. so got out of my sleeping bag, packed up my gear, went for a quick bike ride as the sun rose, then had a shower in the hangar, had my breakfast of a banana, grape nuts with raisons and dry milk left over from an outward bound course I taught, loaded and organized Freddy, preflighted the plane, got my weather briefing on the telephone, found the courses to steer against the winds aloft, and I was at last ready to go.

The older white haired men that surprisingly accumulate at almost every airport to talk about flying peered out the window as I taxied to the end of the runway, no doubt, to discuss my plane, perhaps me, and most definitely the quality of my take-off. The take-off came off smoothly at 8:59am. The morning flight was a good one and the GPS actually showed us making in the 90 mph range! Close to double what our slowest speed was the days before. So on we flew over the farmland that is very comforting to fly over. Always on the lookout for a field to land on in an emergency, there's suitable fields everywhere. The roads were also helpful in that they were not the windy roads of back east. They were the midwest roads pointing exactly north-south and east-west. And since I was headed almost exactly west, I just followed the road from 4,500 feet above it.

I was making such better time and managing my fuel better with the fuel tank switch that lets me draw fuel from either the left or right wing tank. I had always previously left it on both so I never had to think about it, but since the left tank draws a little more than the right, using the fuel switch is imperative to increasing range. The only drawback is that I have to remember that I have switched it to one tank (must be on "both" for all maneuvers, take offs and landings). So I must be aware of the fuel levels and the switch position. To remind myself that I’m not on both tanks, I put a glove on the dashboard. I have to say that I was a little concerned about having never used the switch before, though everything told me it should work fine, so I got to high altitude above the first airport I came across and then switched over to left tank from both. Everything worked as expected but I had been prepared for any unusual happenings. I also felt like I had crossed another line of becoming a real pilot not afraid or intimidated by any little switches.

So I flew on, making good time and worked out that I’d have enough fuel to go about 60 miles farther than initially planned. So I got out the green airport book and found the info for Greater Kankakee airport. Pronounced with a long a on the first syllable which is the stressed one. It took one of the air traffic controller (ATC) guys three times to figure out that that was the place I was talking about as I adjusted my destination. (I was saying a stressed second syllable - they need a pronunciation guide in the directory). I had to tell the controller because I was getting a service called "flight following." That means that the big control centers have me and my altitude on their radar screens and they alert me if any other planes come in my direction near my altitude. It’s like having a huge pair of eyes looking down me, giving me a hand in spotting other aircraft. so those worrying about us can be comforted by knowing I always have someone on the radio, who knows where we am, what altitude we're at, and where we're heading.

I followed the roads right to Kankakee airport, in Illinois - I flew right over Indiana - and made a straight in soft landing on runway 22 (facing 220 on the compass). This airport has no tower (class E) so as I came in I self announced my positions and intentions on the CTAF, (common traffic advisory frequency). I talked to the field guy on the radio and as I taxied to parking, he came out in the fuel truck to top Freddy off. He was a very nice fellow and called me "boss" which I liked.

Inside to pay for the fuel and plan the next leg in the board room. Got the distances, courses, and checkpoints off the chart and then was ready to call the weather briefers when the real boss told me that there was a flight service station (FSS) right across the way. So instead of calling I walked right in. Had to get buzzed through two doors for security reasons and then got a briefing from a briefer right in front of me. Rows of computers everywhere, it was like being in mission control. Very cool it was to finally see the places I call to get weather briefs. I asked if I could get my video camera but Lockheed Martin has recently taken over from the government in the operation of the FSS's so I was told that no cameras are allowed and that all the info is proprietary to Lockheed. Oh well. Back to the skies!

Had a lunch of bread, an apple, Triscuits and a tomato and we were off, self announcing that we were taking off on runway 22. When I was up about a few hundred feet, I noticed in the distance that it looked like a plane was preparing to land on the same runway but coming the other way. I turned off to the side just in case and it looked like he went around, either way he did not seem to be announcing his intentions. Safely up and away, I headed north-west towards Madison. it was an uneventful flight and I even filed a flight plan with the Kankakee FSS for practice. (With a flight plan, if the plan is not closed within half an hour of the proposed landing time, a search and rescue operation will begin. I put my other glove on the dashboard to remind me to close the plan. Usually I don't get the flight plans when I get flight following, but if I come across spots of the country where flight following is not available, flight plans will be a good option.)

Into Madison, Wisconsin I went, landing at a bigger class C airport with long runways and airliner capabilities, though it's not as busy as a class B airport like Boston’s. An hour later I see the new state radio sprinter van - huge and blue, right now affectionately known as "red" coming to pick me up. Chad, Chuck, Brian and Sybil came out on the ramp to check out Fred, Syb and Chad even sitting in the pilot seat with the headphones on practicing their pilot-speak. Into town we went and got ready for the show. It was a good one and I did some singing on the diner song and also did some good jumping with Chad and chuck on stage. also did a little Roger Daulty swinging of the arm as if I was swinging a microphone - a credit goes out to my cousins Maude and eve for their film on the who's Tommy broadway musical - a film I’ve watched a hundred times. Much fun it was.

The weather was foggy the following day both in Wisconsin and in Minneapolis, my destination, and the location of state radio's next gig, so into red I went leaving Freddy tied down in Madison. Into Minnesota for the first time I went for another SR show and to see our cousin Matty Cochran, who lives in Minneapolis. another good show, and another round of the diner song, as the encore, with even bigger jumps (including the scissor leg jump as well as the spread eagle leg jump - like the who's Pete Townsend) and double arm swings - I bet Roger Daultry never did that!

Today we're heading back to Madison, where they'll drop me off and continue to St. Louis. I’m anxious to get back into the skies and continue my expedition. it was great seeing Matty and it's been fun spending time with the band. I’ve been doing some good aviation reading during the down time and now have a pencil holder sewn into my dickies. One more brunch with Matty and we'll be off. Have to leave here before the cold winter sets in. (All the buildings are connected with above ground enclosed walkways over the streets so that folks don't have to venture into the freezing temps in the winter time.)

From here I’m not sure where I’m headed, but still heading west to the Dakotas or Montana, states I have never been too. We shall see what the weather brings. I’ll try to head out tomorrow morning and might meet the band in boulder, co on the 12th or so. That’s the scoop. Thanks for reading.

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