For the first time in what seems like forever, I took a flight for fun this weekend. I'd intended to fly down to Oceano and hang out at the beach for a couple of hours, but turns out there was a big fire down in Santa Barbara. I wasn't sure how smoky it would get at Oceano, but by the time I was half way from Paso Robles to Oceano, visibility was very limited and the whole cabin smelled like smoke. Of course what goes through my mind? In the unlikely event of an engine fire right now, I may never know...also it couldn't have been good for the air filters and systems. Plus, honestly the plane I was flying, 54JA, was acting a bit sketchily -- any mixture setting other than "full rich" resulted in an alarming RPM drop.
So, I turned around and headed back to Paso Robles. After I managed to get oriented, I got into the pattern and landed, and taxied to transient parking, having to wait at a cross-runway for a firefighting plane to take off.
I had lunch at the airport restaurant, which was alright -- the flavors were good but the fish was overcooked. Then I took off and flew home. It was actually almost boring -- my IFR training has made it so easy to maintain an altitude that I didn't even have to think about it; I just sat back and coasted along. On the way back down, I made a very smooth 500fpm descent all the way back down into the straight in approach for 30 at San Carlos. That was fun; it was one of those "I'm SO in control" moments.