Monday, July 12, 2010

Orcas Island [ Part 3 ]

When we went to Friday Harbor on July 6, I had talked to the airport manager at Orcas Island about the weather, how clear it was, and when we were leaving. Bea told me, "You're going to have a clear trip home!" And from that point onward, I remained stressed out about the weather.

On Saturday the 10th, we were thinking about whether we should just head back toward the bay area and forfeit the last night of rent that we'd already paid for the place we were staying, or if we should do all of our flight back on Sunday. As we were considering this, the place we were staying called us, wondering why our stuff was still there -- apparently we had NOT paid for that final night! Well, that made our decision easy. We went back, packed up our stuff, did a couple of last minute errands, and made for the airport. It was pretty much clear, but looked like parts of Oregon might be cloudy.

I took off VFR, and picked up flight following from Whidbey Approach. We set a target of Roseburg, OR, for the day's trip. There was almost no wind -- what happened to the 30 knot winds? Why do we never get 30 knot tailwinds? Well, at least we weren't going into a headwind, so we flew along uneventfully, just curving a bit around a bank of clouds over the mountains west of Portland. We passed over Kelso and located the airport, which was fun. It took about 3 hours to get to Roseburg, and I thought about going farther, but to do so we'd either have to go to Medford (and by this time we'd developed an affinity for the small airports, rather than the big ones) or Grant's Pass (accommodations not as close by as with Roseburg, and more potential for cloudy weather in the morning), or try to get in somewhere at the coast, but it was already cloudy there and looked like it'd be socked in in the morning (I love satellite weather on the G1000).

So, we stuck with Plan A and went into Roseburg. It looked beautiful from above, with a river to the north and another to the south, and a nice wide/long runway. I made the appropriate calls for left traffic and landed (flaring a bit high), and filled up the fuel tanks while Kay went looking for....anyone at all. I pushed the plane into one of the hundreds of empty tie downs, and saw that a taxi had appeared, so I grabbed our stuff and went over there. But even with the rush, it did not escape my attention that absolutely no one was there at the airport. I guess, 6pm on a Saturday...but still, it was eerie.

The hotel (Windmill Inn) was great, and cheap! So we had dinner and went for what turned into kind of an eerie walk (through a neighborhood full of feral cats, past a series of abandoned baseball diamonds and onto a river trail, also mostly abandoned). Eventually we ended up in a VA hospital area that was an absolutely gorgeous campus setting. Crazy. There was a classic car event in town that weekend, so periodically we'd have some AWESOME car drive past us on the road. We went back to the restaurant's bar, had a drink, and went back to the hotel.

I was afraid that when we woke up the next morning, we'd be socked in, based on the forecasts I'd looked at the night before. Not sure why I worry about this so much; it's not that complicated -- either I can take off IFR, or we wait. No big. Anyway, when I woke up and looked out the window, I actually laughed out loud, because it was CAVU. Not a cloud in the sky. It was actually HOT, and by the time the hotel shuttle took us to the airport (for free) and dropped us off AT our airplane (sweet!), it was 28 degrees C on the tarmac. We took off ahead of someone on a 3-mile final, and made a very wide left downwind departure to avoid a hill that sits on left downwind (nice). Climb performance was predictably horrid, and I needed to get to 9000 if I wanted to get up over the mountains in the Shasta area. Well, the climb was going slowly, and it looked like there were clouds atop the mountains that to me suggested that it might be a turbulent ride. So I turned toward the coast, and weaved my way up to 9000 as I aimed for low points in mountains. We went over Grant's Pass and many other airports along the way, comforting sights in case of engine trouble over mountains.

After getting near the coast and finally getting to 9000, we followed the Eel River for quite a while. We got a great view of Clearlake, and then eventually we started getting into familiar territory -- Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and then suddenly into the bay area. I'd descended to 5000 by the time I requested the bayshore transition to Palo Alto, and they gave it to me at 3500 (there was a pretty good cloud layer over the city of SF). The rest was easy; we landed at Palo Alto, tied down, and we were HOME!

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