[August 17, 2014]

My friend Rene unfortunately made the decision to get married. The only thing left before the big day was to try to talk him out of it by a boys trip to Chicago for a bachelor party to show him everything in life he will be missing out on. I chanced it and was depending on the RV-7 to get me there and back. The weather for the trip out there couldn't of been more perfect than it was. Low winds and high pressure was dominating the area.

There was a whole crew of us assembling in Chicago from all over the place - Cleveland, Minneapolis, Detroit and Des Moines. A full beer exchange of all of our great local beers was to take place. Here is my precious cargo (yes, Natty Boh is considered precious cargo!).

First stop was Cleveland, OH to pick up my friend "Nook". There was pretty much a headwind the whole way there - which was to be expected. The temps were nice and cool too. 50 degrees F at 4,500'.

Scattered clouds were around 5,000'. It made for some spectacular views crossing the Appalachians.

Coming up on the PA turnpike. This was one of the options for how to get to Chicago - drive out to Cleveland and then carpool to Chicago. Only 12 hours via car. I like the RV as a convenient travel alternative!

Taking a slight shortcut through the Johnstown, PA airport airspace.

Johnstown, PA.

I was served up with a whole buffet of power plants to research. this is the Conemaugh Generating Station located in New Florence, PA. It's a 1,711MW coal burning plant. There were three other coal plants in the area - all because of the local abundance of coal.

Next up was another coal plant - the Homer City Generating Plant in Homer City, PA. An interesting fact about the 1,217' chimney to the left is it's currently the third tallest chimney in the world, the second tallest in North America, and the tallest in the United States.

The clouds started to drop as soon as I got over the Appalachians down to about 4,000'.

This is the Keystone Power Generation Station in Plumcreek Township, PA. Yet another coal fired power plant. Keystone was the first plant to be constructed away from a significant source of cooling water. The Keystone Reservoir was constructed on the North Branch of Plum Creek, a tributary of Crooked Creek to provide a constant source of cooling water for the plant's thermodynamic cycle year round. The cooling tower system at Keystone marks one of the most significant of early environmental controls on large power plants in the United States (thermal pollution of waterways was one of the first types of pollution to experience significant controls).

Flying over the tollbooth where the PA and OH turnpikes meet.

Downtown Cleveland, OH in the background.

Cleveland Hopkins (KCLE) airport off my wingtip as I approached Lorain County Airport (KLPR).

I picked up my friend Nook in KLPR and we blasted off towards Chicago. Since we were ahead of schedule and the weather was perfect, we decided to do an excursion to Put In Bay, OH - an island in Lake Erie.

We passed over Cedar Point, OH, which is the second oldest operating amusement park in the US. It has a world record of 72 rides, and also the only place that has 4 roller coasters over 200' in height. I was here many times during college and it's a great way to spend a summer day.

Approaching Put-In-Bay.

Put In Bay has a unmissable monument on it. The Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie that took place near Ohio's South Bass Island, in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet to victory in one of the most significant naval battles to occur in the War of 1812. Located on an isthmus on the island, the memorial also celebrates the lasting peace between Britain, Canada, and the United States that followed the war. The 352-foot monument (the world's most massive Doric column) by a multi-state commission from 1912 to 1915.

On short final for Put-In-Bay (3W2). My landing was absolutely horrible. Right as I was about 10' off the runway, a gust of wind came and stole all of my lift. After a very big bounce, I was able to get a decent second landing in. Luckily my passenger seemed unphased by this bad landing.

The landing fee was reasonable at $11, and gold carts were available to rent at the FBO for $12/hour. An hour was plenty of time to go downtown and grab a bite to eat. We went to the Put In Bay Brewing Company. The burger there was out of this world. Put In Bay looks like a fun place when you don't have to fly. Bars and hot spots all over the place. I will have to come back to sample the nightlife.

Back in the air on our way to Waukegan, IL (KUGN). We were thinking about flying into Gary, IN (KGYY) because the Chicago Metra train would be able to take us downtown. However, my friend from Minneapolis offered to pick us up on his way down. KUGN made more sense for him to meet us at.

As luck would have it, we passed over another power plant - The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, OH. This plant has the distinguished history of being the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States since 1979.

Tough to see, but south of Chicago, a dry-like dike carries I-80 over the Thornton Quarry.

This power plant almost snuck underneath of me without being noticed. The Will County Station in Romeoville, IL off of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Nothing notable at all on the Interweb about this coal burning plant.

Getting closer to Waukegan we passed near Six Flags amusement park.

Short final for KUGN. I will have to say the controllers at this airport were beyond nice. Most pleasant tower experience I have ever had. There is a $40 facilities fee for the airport, which is waived if you purchase at least 7 gallons of fuel. The full service fuel was on the pricey side, but the self service was about in line with most airports in the area. The only other fees I was hit with was $10/night and also a $5 security fee. Very reasonable for being located so close to Chicago.

The parking area was very empty at KUGN. A handful of biz jets and two piston singles.

Since this was a bachelor party weekend, there are very few pictures we could share. This is one of the few presentable pictures of the groom-to-be. Our Saturday afternoon was full of indulgence. We took a tour of the Koval distillery, which is the first distillery within Chicago's city limits since Prohibition.

Since whiskey was on our mind, we decided to take a tour of another alcohol producing business - CH Distillery.

Fast forward a couple of days and it was time to go. The Landmark Aviation FBO at KUGN was top notch. Electric reclining chairs in a movie room was a very nice touch.

They had an extensive collection of DVD cases. My friend and I couldn't actually find one DVD Disc in any of the cases.

So far the trip had gone great. The cloud were a little low on Sunday for the trip home, but they were breaking up nicely. I hopped in the RV and got her started. I called up the tower to get a taxi only to realize the airport was still IFR - ATIS was calling for 900' ceiling. I could look up and see blue skies. I asked if they could revise the ATIS and they said they would see what they could do for us. After 15 minutes the new ATIS came out - ceiling 1,000'! Booyah, enough for me to get off the ground. For all of those judging me for scud running, the ceiling was much higher than 1,000'. It was at least 2,000 to the west of the airport. However, due to the proximity of the airport to Lake Michigan, the clouds were very thick directly over the airport, and thinned out almost immediately to the west.

So with the new ATIS information, I went to start the engine again (Hot start procedure). It fired up and quickly died. I tried again - same thing, started sputtering and then died. Primed it. Nothing. The worst eventually happened - I drained the battery and couldn't get her started. I got out of the airplane to see what the problem was - fuel dripping from the bottom of the cowl - I clearly flooded the engine.

I walked with my tail between my legs back to the FBO to try to get an extension cord. The only good thing about my situation is there was a power outlet very close to the airplane. I tossed the battery charger on and headed to the FBO to play the waiting game. Now here is the challenge. It was a 2 AH charger, and the Odyssey manual says at 2 AH, it takes 8 hours to fully charge a dead battery. But how "dead" was this battery? How much time did I need to leave it plugged in to get a good start? If I left it plugged in too short of a time and the starter couldn't crank it through, I would have to start the timer all over again. To complicate things, I was racing sunset back on the east coast. I waited 90 minutes, and that was enough to get the battery well beyond where it needed to be to fire up the engine.

Around Chicago we had a 2,000' ceiling which was occasionally broken.

After we got from underneith of the Chicago class B airspace, we popped up through a hole and headed east. Everything was going fine until I ran into a wall of clouds. Here is a writeup I did for Rivetbangers.com on this experience.

I wanted to share an experience I had this past weekend when I was VFR on top and almost needed to backtrack an hour to get below the deck. I was in Chicago where the cloud layer was scattered at 1,500'. It was a thin layer which I could easily pop through. Looking at the weather METAR's, TAF's and satellite imagery, there was an overcast layer over most of Indiana, breaking up by eastern Indiana. Instead of scud running the whole trip, I decided once I was clear of the Chicago airspace, I would pop up high and cruise VFR on top to where I knew it was clear.

The plan was going well until I saw a wall of clouds that I didn't think I could make it through. My heart started racing - what if I can't make it through in VFR rules? The obvious decision would be to turn back and backtrack an hour to where I knew there were holes in the clouds. Luckily we were able to make it through the cloud build ups and the overcast layer turned back into a scattered layer which we could easily descend through.

A few lessons learned here:
1) I need an instrument rating. I really have no excuse now - my new neighbor is a CFII. I was stuck on the ground at KUGN for over 4 hours waiting for the ATIS to report the clouds >= 1,000', even though I could see blue skies.

2) Ceilings are not indicatives of tops.

3) Be ready to turn around if you are VFR on top.

4) As great as all of the modern weather tools are (ADS-B, satellite imagery, TAF's, METAR's, etc..), none of them told me of this wall of clouds existed.

The skies couldn't of been any clearer in Ohio. It turned out to be a beautiful day.

On the way to Cleveland to drop my friend off, I was deciding on whether to spend the night in Cleveland and leave first thing in the morning for home, or if I would go home that night. My main concern would be any clouds or weather in PA, especially with the mountainous terrain. When I got on the ground in Cleveland, I did some looking at the weather and it looked perfect. I fueled up and blasted off for home. I estimated I would be in the dark for about 30 minutes of my 1.5 hour trip back to MD.

The sunset over Pittsburgh was just awesome.

19 Kts on the tail. I was movin!

180 kts over the ground (207 MPH). It took only 1.5 hours to get home from Cleveland. Smokin'!

Another sunset pic.

And the last pic of the night before the sunset.



Last Modified: August 13, 2023